04 April 2009


My stepmother, who I dearly love (I wanted to make that clear, since so often when people start a sentence with "my stepmother" it's about something they aren't happy about), recently sent me this link to a You Tube video, with the subject heading of "Incredibly scary information." Take a look at it by clicking anywhere you want on this paragraph, then come back here, read the rest of my blog, and tell me if this scares you or not.

Okay, you're back. Good.

The only thing all this "information" does, is to make me sorry I won't be around in a hundred or so years to see how it all turns out. (Of course by then, I'd probably want another hundred years - greedy little shit, aren't I? - to see how that turns out.) It all seems so exciting.

I can just barely recollect bits and pieces of the first time I ever went back east with my family. We flew from Los Angeles to New York. It took 11 hours, or more, and required a couple of stops along the way. Maybe it was in a DC-6 with its four propellers; the king of the commercial airways in the 1950s. Last time I made the trip, it took just slightly over five hours - we had favorable tailwinds.

I remember my father getting very nervous when the company he ran installed its first computer. They had to build a special clean, humidity and temperature controlled room to house it. It cost something like four million dollars (over 21 million dollars today, adjusted for inflation.) The fifteen hundred dollar laptop I'm writing this blog on, in my dusty, somewhat damp and cold at the moment, office in my house, is almost immeasurably more powerful than the computer my dad bought for his company back then.

My grandmother died in 1988 at the age of 98. She was tack sharp until the day she died. She was incredibly well read and well traveled, with a tremendous curiosity about the world. By the time she died, I had my first computer, a primitive affair with one big floppy disk for the operating system and one for whatever program I was using and a bit of extra space to store stuff on. I could sort of, kind of, get on the internet, mostly Usenet groups. Since then, thanks to the rapid development of the internet and computer software and hardware, I've probably learned more about the world over just those 20 years than my grandmother did in her entire life.

I envy my nieces and nephew, now just starting to edge into their teens. The breadth of their knowledge of the world will dwarf mine by the time they're my age. Probably long before that. Though there has been some criticism about the decreasing depth of people's knowledge - how much real information can actually be packed into a 140 word tweet? - it doesn't need to be that way. Breadth of knowledge will give them incredible opportunities to pick and choose what they want to learn in greater depth, what they want to specialize in.

Will they need to work harder, faster, more effectively to take advantage of all these opportunites? Yep, they will. Is that so bad or so scary? Nope, at least it shouldn't be. All this sped up and still speeding up development means is that the world is becoming a much more competitive place. And competition is good. It can be messy, chaotic; it requires flexibility and constant learning and relearning, but it's the best way to make things better in the long run.

This isn't to say that none of this, at my age, doesn't make me a little wistful, if not downright nervous at times. Pretty much everything I've learned to do in my life, is becoming obsolete, or if not, becoming less and less of a way to make a living. Still, that's progress for you. And it doesn't scare me. It excites me.

1 comment:

A.H. Ream said...

The very best part is how small the world will get, how easy it is and will continue to be to work and communicate with anyone, anywhere. Isolationism becomes impossible. Oh the places you will go, indeed.