Considering the pros and cons, I believe that we are lucky to be alive in this part of human history. The Information Age is the realization of the prolific, futuristic fantasies of the 1940s and 50s (well, no antigravity cars and moon colonies… yet), and the typical person living today has unprecedented access to so much information, as well as gadgets and gizmos made possible by one of the catalyst technologies of the digital revolution: the integrated circuit.
Because of these advances, our daily lives are also affected. We do things differently, ideally better, but that is not always the case. Below are a few choice then-and-now comparisons that show how things have changed compared to the recent past.
Mail has come a long way since the days of the PonyExpress. While actual mail is still sent and received in large volumes all over the world, electronic mail has made sending letters much, much faster (a reason why regular mail has been given the derogatory nickname, “snail mail”).
One of the downsides to this electronic mail is that it’s just too easy to send mail to so many people at once (no postage stamps needed), and so there came to be SPAM that fills your electronic mailbox with hundreds of advertisements and offers that you probably don’t need. This is way more irritating than the catalogs that they send to your real mailbox; at least you could use the paper for fish wrapping.
Conceptualized during the 1800s by various brilliant scientific minds of the time (including AlexanderBell and ThomasEdison), the telephone was a key piece of technology that paved the way for our modern information networks. The device was pretty straightforward, and it did not really do anything beyond.
Today’s phones are veritable mobile computing devices capable of sending and receiving many forms of data, keeping people connected to each other virtually anywhere in the world. The complexity and features of today’s phones vary from simpleandeasytousephone units to feature-packed, multitaskingsmartphones that blur the boundaries between a personal computer and a mobile phone.
Technologies that allow the smartphone to be your wallet, a monetary transaction device as well as your identification device (using biometrics), are already present. Soon, it will be the only thing you need to have in your pocket.
Conversation in General
With the introduction of so many new ways to interact with people, the regular banter of people began to take place while physically distant from one another. Granted, there were already telephones back then, but with the addition of text chatting, video conferences, and other online methods of communication, it is an ironic trend that people have become more distant from one another.
Twitter, one of the biggest social media networks on the internet, is a poster child for this trend. There is only so much you can convey in 140 characters, but it would seem that the character limit is more than sufficient for most people. Brevity is a good in certain situations, but not to the point when meaning is diminished because of it.
Let’s stray from the communication-related technologies and move to another essential part of living: physical sustenance. It didn’t used to be the case that everything you ate came out of a can or plastic bag. More time and effort was made by the cooks to prepare food, and with more people now having malnutrition problems (morbidlyobese or skeletally anorexic), one could surmise that food eating habits were healthier back then.
It’s not all bad in the present, however. Thanks to technology-assisted methods of farming, we are able to enjoy just about any fruit or vegetable all year long. There are also safer methods of controlling pests, and the yield and quality of the produce have been vastly improved.
Even one of the older vices of humanity gets a refresh. Despite all of the downsides to burning tobacco and inhaling the smoke, we have been doing it for quite some time. I don’t buy that it’s a purely chemical addiction; there’s the social dimension to this, and cigars, pipes, and cigarettes have always been romanticized as a mildly dangerous, but socially acceptable vice.
The modern cigarette isn’t one bit safer than just drying and rolling your own leaf, but technology delivers with the e–cigarette. It doesn’t really contain any tobacco (it comes in just about any flavor, though), but it has nicotine, the chemical that gets you hooked. Acceptance of this new spin on an old habit is slow, but it’s getting there. People generally start with a disposable e-cigarette or two, and if they find it satisfactory, move onto more personalized “vaping” devices and their choice of e-juice flavors (the liquid you put into the e-cigarette that produces the vapor), and even the strength of nicotine your body prefers.
It Goes On and On
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg on how our march of progress changes the way we humans live. Ideally, these changes are for the betterment of us and our civilization, but as you can see, there are unforeseen negative ramifications that emerge with every change. That should not prevent us from moving forward, however. It is our imperative as sentient beings to move onward, take the good things we have learned, discard the bad, and continue our perpetual journey.
About the Author
Stacey Thompson is a professional writer, marketer, entrepreneur, and a lover of weird little animals. She is based in San Diego, California, and is currently working with her friends on a blog, WordBaristas.