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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tech and the Effect on the Human Experience**

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
Facts and research © 2009 by Karl Fisch and Dr. Scott McCleod

*Chicago Tribune
February 4, 2011
as "Tech and the human experience"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
February 5, 2010
as "Tech and the human experience"

That the world is accelerating is knowledge that surprises almost no one.  Yet, when one considers the facts in detail, the results are astonishing.

In 2006, two educators, Karl Fisch and Dr. Scott McCleod produced a video entitled, “Did You Know?”  The video, backed  by a driving, booming soundtrack reels off a number of factoids about the exponential increase in the power of technology and the effects on the human race.  They have since produced four updates, all available on YouTube. 

Reading these facts, I was stunned.  A long-time devotee of Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock,” I’ve always known that humans were racing forward, but I was not prepared for how far or how fast.

Consider this:   China will soon become the world’s number one English-speaking country.

Another shocker: The 25% of India’s population with the highest I.Q.’s is larger than the entire population of the United States. 

Business is also changing rapidly.  The top ten jobs in demand in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004.  For the students training for those jobs, information is changing so rapidly that Fisch and McCleod estimate that what university students learn during their freshman year will be outmoded by the time they’re juniors. 

The Internet dominates our lives.  With 200 million users, if Facebook was a country, it would be the fifth largest in the world.  There were 1,000 Internet devices in 1984.  By 2008, there were more than 1 billion.  The way we access the ‘Net is changing.  A company in Japan has successfully tested a fiber optic cable that carries 14 trillion bits of data per second down a single strand of fiber.  That’s 210 million telephone calls per second.  If that weren’t enough, that capacity will triple every six months for at least the next 20 years.  If you thought America had good broad-band access, you’d be wrong.  The leader in that department is Bermuda.  The U.S. is number 19; Japan comes in at 22.

Everyone knows that computers are getting smaller and faster.   But consider this.  In 2013, a supercomputer  will, for the first time, exceed the computational capacity of the human brain..  By 2049, a $1,000 computer will exceed the computational capacity of every human brain combined on this planet.  The computer that fits inside your cell phone is a thousand times more powerful, a 100,000 times smaller, and a million times cheaper than the room-size computer at M.I T. that, in 1965, was the most powerful in the world.  What’s even more stunning is that same computing power that fits in your shirt pocket now, will by 2035 fit inside a human cell.

Information is the new gold coin, and people are vigorously mining that asset.  The video points out that the year that version was created (2009, I believe) some 4 exabytes of unique information would be created.  An Exabyte is…well…it’s gigantic.  But that amount in one year exceeds the total information produced in the previous 5,000 years.  A week’s worth of information in the New York Times is more than an 18th century person would receive in their entire lives. 

The video ends with the provocative question, “What does this all mean?”

I came up with a short list.

  • Today’s students have more and faster access to knowledge than any previous generation.  And yet, test scores remain level, or decline.

·        The human race is more interconnected today than ever before.  Yet we understand each other even less.  Wars still go on, and more and people increasingly suffer from loneliness and isolation.

·        Computers will eventually become smarter than their creators.  And our ability to control them will be reduced. 

·        Our reliance on tech will increase to the point where, without it, we won’t be able to function. 

·        The distance between the virtual us and the actual human being behind the keyboard will widen; and we will be poisoned by lie we live.

Technology has always been a tool.  But it has become a culture; a way of life.  Instead of using tech to solve problems, many people think of it as the solution itself.  But the world’s chronic problems still require solutions that spring from human wisdom and compassion.

Let’s hope no one invents a machine for those.
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