Bill Longworth, April 30, 2008
I remember when the world was a simpler place. Then, the regular rhythms of life were the early morning clickety clack of the horse drawn milk and bread wagons and ice carts delivering their goods with dependable and predictable alarm clock precision; an early iteration of modern industry’s “just in time” delivery systems.
It was a time when the police constables on their bicycles knew everyone and took time for neighbourly chats along their rounds, a time when law and order was everyone’s responsibility.
It was a time when you knew everyone--when you could count on their help and assistance when needed.
It was a time, even in war, that you knew who the enemy was, and could count on respect and a bond of honour even over the fighting lines. That bond, on occasion, called forth an informal truce for mutual celebrations of fellowship, drinking, and carol singing together at times like Christmas. Such was war in simpler times.
It was a time when the constraints of travel and information flow allowed the distinctive cultures of the world to flourish so that travel really meant visiting a different world.
It was a time when large crowds gathered outside store windows at night, even in the rain, to marvel at technological breakthroughs like television.
It was a time when most workers could walk to work, such was the proximity of their homes and their workplaces. It was a time when the wheels of production depended upon worker skill and workmanship. The man himself was more important than the machine.
All that was before the digital age.
Like an earthquake, the digital revolution engorged the simplicity of the old ways. Like a tsunami roaring over the human landscape, in a moment, everything was changed.
It revolutionized everything; jobs, manufacturing, communication, banking, office routines, travel, Information flow—everything, including the human condition! It brought forth new kinds of jobs often substituting the physical efforts of simpler times to mental work freeing many from any kind of physical exertion. This, of course, brought its own problems.
It instantly made the world a smaller place. It made it possible to propel anything, anywhere, anytime. It worked 24/7 often wiping out the eight hour day and holidays and weekends that workers had fought to earn. Technology became controlling, expanding, unrelenting, manipulating. It held everyone at its beck and call every second of the day.
In our new world, we're on an Indianapolis 500 treadmill of rapidly accelerating change, and despite being breathless, we must keep up for fear of falling behind.
And the gulf between the two worlds continues to grow. The torrential downpour of new ideas and new technology is drowning us in a sea of frustration…while the world is being buoyed by a sea of possibilities.
That gulf between the simple world and our new world is the digital divide…a very clear delineation between the old and the new, and easily the equal of the invention of Watt’s steam engine which mechanized hand labour to bring forth the industrial revolution.
Just like the industrial revolution which brought profound change to all aspects of life and unlimited wealth to the nations that embraced it, the digital age holds even greater promise for all aspects of humanity.
Just think of its potential…
Hell! You think about it. I’ve got to leave this story now in its completely unfinished state to plow through the 142 page manual that came with my new blackberry to try to figure out how the damn thing works. Hopefully I won’t have a technology tantrum in the process.
Maybe...just maybe, that simpler time was better after all!
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