When we first took to the skies with powered flight about a century ago, we could never have predicted the fundamental changes this breakthrough technology would have on our society. In just decades humans went from flitting around in fragile box kites with moped engines to jets to spaceflight. That’s astounding! But those accomplishments are (when put in perspective) simple milestones for future generations to key on. They are sign posts announcing changes beyond what any of us could ever expect.
For it is not the attainment of flight in and of itself that has changed humankind so fundamentally, it is how people have used that advance that has evolved us further. Technology in and of itself is never the most awesome human accomplishment. The most awesome human accomplishments have come on the heels of those technological breakthroughs, not because the airplane demanded we build rockets to the moon, but because people dreamed they could use the technology at hand and invent that which was not.
We are changing as fast as our technology
While we marvel at every new gadget and device which is unveiled, we miss the real changes taking place because of technology. We, as a race are changing radically from just the previous generation. How we see the world around us and how we interact with that world and those in it is changing exponentially as new technology inspires people and changes their perspective.
The distance of time
Take for example something as simple as time. Before the advent of digital clocks, we saw motion in time. There was the sweep of the second and minute hands and the space between them and the hour hand. Time had distance to it. Time had motion to it. Now, time has a click. Where once time had a perceived circular motion (a natural pattern we recognize easily), now it simply is or is not a certain time. The truth is that you can’t count seconds up or down as you can the sweep of a clock’s hand – in this case, analog seems much more intuitive and natural than digital.
The simple binary life
I sometimes think that the reason digital tech is so popular with younger people is its binary nature. There are no shades of grey – it either is or it isn’t true or false. That’s pretty appealing to a young person trying to figure out this whole world and find their place in it. Let’s face it, most of us only accept the world being made up of countless shades of grey when we get much older. I’m not saying older people are smarter, I’m simply saying we’ve been in class a lot longer.
A senior on a bench
When one sees the reaction of a senior relaxing on a bench to some kid passing buy on a hover board, one can imagine the future and just what might pass us by as we sit on a similar bench if we aren’t watching people instead of technology.
Pundits have been telling people to slow down and smell the roses since before the car replaced the horse and buggy. The change of pace is always too fast when you are affected by it. I’m not saying digital technology is bad, but I am saying we too often focus on the technology rather than the people who use it to change our world – us. The greatest advances are only achieved when we advance ourselves.