Has there ever been so pronounced of a shift in life and lifestyle, with so little recognition of the fundamental change?
The world is fundamentally different than it was ten years ago. Communication is different, technology is different, everything is changing.
But people seem to... not have noticed.
Perhaps it's because the change is so distributed?
iPhone: January 2007. 5 years old.
YouTube: February 2007. 5 years old.
Skype: August 2003. 9 years old.
Gmail: April 2004. 8 years old.
Those are all game-changers individually. Collectively, a whole lot of change is happening.
But because any individual change doesn't seem to be so tremendous, people don't seem to realize what's happening.
This might be as big of a deal as anything since the printing press came around. And no one seems to have fully noticed.
I get skype (web enabled video calls), you tube (crowd sourced audio visual media) and iphone (advanced mobile media tech), but whats so big about gmail, we already had yahoo.
Personally, while revolutionary, these changes have come slowly enough for me to adapt to them. I don't care how they're categorized, whether they're merely trends or whether they're the inevitable first step to people uploading their personalities to the cloud. It's impossible to know, and I find I don't care much. What does knowing the momentousness of the event have to do with how I live my life?
Now, personally, I am thrilled that I don't have to have a brick and mortar business in order to make a living. Going back to that would be a hassle. I love that I can have stimulating conversations with like-minded people the world over because the social isolation in my hometown was brutal. These are revolutionary, yes. But I'm living it. I don't need to simultaneously remark upon it; it's not an effective use of my newfound freedom.
I've often thought about this: how different is this world from the world I grew up in as a kid. And it never ceases to astound me.
I can't even recall how it was to meet someone in public without a cellphone.
I don't know how to use an encyclopedia anymore. Or a dictionary.
This revolution has gone unnoticed, but not as much as you would like to believe.
There have been 6 major fundamental shifts in life and lifestyle. They have all been information revolutions:
1) the adoption of agriculture (a shift away from an information economy to a material-goods economy)
2) writing which allowed the creation of a hierarchical state, war, slavery and gender discrimination.
3) the fall of the Roman Empire which liberated information from the upper classes.
4) the printing press which made literacy available to common people
5) the telegraph and telephone that made instant communication possible for the masses
6) today's information revolution that is permitting people to communicate, publish, program etc etc globally.
Each has seen a major change in how people organize themselves and how they view themselves and the world around them. Each has seemingly "crept up" on people and yet has had major affects on them.
This is due to the nature of information itself. It is both obvious and invisible and we tend to see the world as organized in the way that our information technology is organized. For example, the telegraph and telephone organized information into hierarchical switching networks and businesses, countries, and even families an nature were all seen to be organized into hierarchies. Now, information is organized into networks so we see the world as organized into networks and ecologies.
For more see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqLZjWNGqd4 on the nature of information
http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00074?pg=all on today's information revolution and business and
http://information-revolutions.com on the 6 information revolutions.
Actually, the time-traveler would notice a few things:
* Women's lib
* The USSR and everything it represented and supported are gone.
* People are working longer and harder just to keep surviving in the physical world, while the virtual world is an Ian Banks-esque post-scarcity utopia.
Everything's dandy if you never pull your head out of the smartphone and ask why it's so damned hard to see a doctor or rent an apartment.
The development of converged networks is one of the hottest trends in technology today. Packets, packets, it's all about the packets…
Maybe because the changes are all in the virtual world, they're "invisible" in the physical world. I think it was Charles Stross who said [paraphrased]: you could drop a time traveller from the 1960s into a modern city street, he wouldn't see many differences. The cars would look a bit melted and advertisements would have weird strings of characters instead of phone numbers, but that would be it.
Everyone would be carrying little black boxes in their pockets, and all the major changes of the last 10 years would just appear as icons on those boxes.
Maybe the speed of change has increased so rapidly that even historians will group many of these new technologies together and not give each much credit.
A lot of times, people worry about new prosperity, automation, and technology. This is from a Hacker News comment -
"You really gotta wonder how this is gonna turn out. How are dumb people supposed to earn a living when technology makes all the jobs for dumb people obsolete?"
Every time new automation is invented, people think is going to happen. Seriously, this goes back to pre-Industrial Revolution times. Any time part of the labor process is automated away, people think that there's going to be permanent economic damage, and they're consistently wrong.
We'll adapt. There's always new things to be done. Personally, I'm betting on a greater diversity of creative and artistic work happening - people in core industries that are going to remain and grow in profitability (technology, raw materials, energy, consumer goods, construction, etc) will have more surplus income to spend on personalization, customization, different and more unique kinds of entertainment, etc.
People often see someone succeed, and then try to copy what they do, in order to succeed at the same thing.
One of the problems with that is: you're not them. What works for them might not work for you. Let's not underestimate how very different humans can be in character, physiology and psychology.
This happened to me when I first read Tim Ferris' 4 Hour Work Week. There's a passage in there where he mentions that nothing puts him to sleep quicker than reading a few pages of fiction in bed.
This is the exact opposite of what fiction does to me. I've literally stayed awake all night into the wee hours of morning, all because a work of fiction (mostly books, because only they last a whole night) kept me awake. Good fiction grips me more than almost anything. It inspires me, shows me the possibilities I didn't see in reality, touches me emotionally and in my mind I become part of the fiction, and it part of me.
Point being, while fiction puts Tim Ferris to sleep, it keeps me awake. Reading fiction doesn't help me fall asleep.