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Staying Connected in a Rapidly Accelerating World

Updated on February 15, 2016
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Andrew enjoys taking a look at where the future is leading us by zooming out and taking a look at the big picture.

Connectivity

Historically, we humans have been becoming more and more connected ever since time immemorial. In the beginning, we used oral language to communicate our ideas with one another. As a method of data storage, oral traditions arose and stories were passed down from generation to generation. Over time, a considerably better method for communicating and preserving data arose: writing. The ability to write down language and have the symbols mean the same thing as the oral language really catapulted humanity forward a huge step, because we didn’t have to remember every single detail in order for the story to be passed along faithfully. Further, writing allowed for the story to be told only one time (albeit an extremely laborious one time, at least at first), and then the story could be told to dozens and perhaps hundreds of others.

Linotype Typesetting Machine

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Language, off and running

Eventually, the printing press facilitated this spread of language, and we were off and running. What was previously accessible to a handful was now accessible to literally millions. In one fell swoop of invention, a new communication paradigm was created, and we could communicate with one another in ways that were far superior to merely talking out loud. Ideas spread more rapidly with the invention of the printing press, but still didn’t quite take off until the invention of the linotype machine, which worked more than six times as fast as a typical printing press, and allowed millions more books to be created, and daily newspapers with a great deal of content to be produced, thus making the world a smaller place.

However, the problem wasn’t so much the product (books, newspapers) as it was the delivery system. Books couldn’t reach other cities except as carried by human beings, perhaps sometimes on horseback, but always extremely slowly. No matter how efficiently the material was produced, there was still a limit as to how fast the information could get from point A to point B, and the further it was, the longer it took for the info to get there.


Communication at the speed of light

Finally, the telegraph, and then the telephone allowed instantaneous communication to happen across first cities, then countries, then continents, and finally, across the world itself. In the early 1800s, wired, instantaneous transmission (well, not quite instantaneous, but for all but the most academic purposes, it was so during the 19th and 20th centuries) took off, rapidly spreading around the globe. By the late 1800s, Alexander Graham Bell had patented his telephone, and this idea, too, began spreading rapdidly.

Ever since then, we’ve been living in a world connected by light speed, but it hasn't been smooth sailing without a hitch. Even though large parts of the world are connected, many more are still not yet connected because of three concepts:

  1. Access to the information delivery systems
  2. What type of information we spread
  3. The delivery systems themselves

Of course, all of these systems are limited by the cosmic speed limit.


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Improving access to the information delivery systems

Since the aforementioned 19th century innovations of the telegraph and the telephone, we've been working to ensure that everyone in the world has access to these innovations. Even third world countries have limited access to the telephone, but not every individual has personal access to the phone, which is a key concept in individual liberation from government control. Technology has a marvelous ability to empower the individual, but it has to actually make it to said individual's hands first.

This is why wireless communication is so powerful and so very important, moving forward. Individuals are now able to leapfrog past the telephone and telegraph inventions, all the way tot he world wide web and the Internet, connecting via wireless networks and cellular systems even where there aren't telephone lines. Meanwhile, Moore's Law continues to promise "accelerating returns", as futurist Ray Kurzweil calls them. Things are happening faster and faster.

Big plans

Here are the things that are currently in the works, or will be in the works in the near future, to make the world a far more connected place.

  • Ubiquitous wifi (connectivity at virtually every business establishment)
  • Google's Project Loon (putting balloons in the air in the third world to allow local access to the web)
  • Amazon's and Facebook's plans to bring wifi to the third world

All three of these innovations are playing a key role in shaping the future of not only technology, but also social and political paradigms. Consider Egypt's recent revolution, in many ways facilitated by Facebook and social media networking. In some ways, it is the story of how social media is impacting global politics and shaping the future, but without connectivity, there would be no social media whatsoever, and the ubiquitous access to the internet these people have is precisely what puts the individuals on a level playing field with oppressive government regimes.

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Cell phones are great at talking, but not the ideal interface for all circumstances

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Individual connectivity

Individual connectivity began with people carrying around books and giving them to other people, then was facilitated greatly with telephones and television. We are well into the realm of the smartphone, and people can talk to each other across the world virtually for free, at the speed of light. What's next?

In a word: wearables. The most familiar examples are:

  • Google Glass
  • The iWatch (and various other smartphones that fit on your wrist)
  • Oculus Rift

All of these make the interface we have with the web and with other human beings much, much easier to access. What's next? I think internal wearables, or things that interface inside your brain itself. There are already plenty of examples of this being used for medical reasons, such as a computer that moderates Parkinson's disease inside your brain by sending electrical pulses. Eventually, perhaps we'll be talking with our brains themselves, and skipping the wearable interface in lieu of the internal one.

Where do you think we're headed with this stuff?

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    • goatfury profile image
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      Andrew Smith 2 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I'll have some of whatever John is smoking, please.

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      John Paily 2 years ago

      Singularity would be awakening to consciousness and Intelligence or Truth. It is an entry into knowledge era through the information era. As of now we humans we live in illusion that we are most conscious and intelligent beings - In reality we are the least conscious and intelligent beings- we Live by our mind and fail to connect to our root force - The big Bang Point from which the whole universe emerged and exist perpetually in time - https://www.scribd.com/doc/244494203/Consciousness...

    • goatfury profile image
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      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I absolutely do, Anne! I want to write about collective consciousness, and have wanted to for quite some time. Have you read my article on evolution and technology already? (not a shameless plug, I swear!)

    • AnneCReed profile image

      Anne Campagnet-Reed 3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Interesting analysis. I wonder if you may have some iseas about collective consciousness (for a future post?) Thanks for your thoughtful and engaging blogging.

    • goatfury profile image
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      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Anne, I'm glad you enjoyed the video! That's definitely why I wanted to include it in there.

      I wonder, too, if our ability to communicate intelligently and eloquently is dwindling in proportion, as you say, to our with the east of communication. I think, though, that we're going through growing pains instead. What is happening is that those who have very little to say, or who aren't exactly masters of language, are able to speak just as loudly as those of us who put in the time to learn how to speak properly, how to communicate, and so forth. Because of this phenomenon (which will be relatively short-lived, I believe), everyone can be heard now for the first time ever. It's a very good thing, but it's also a bad thing in that there isn't any sort of filter. It's just a cacophony.

    • AnneCReed profile image

      Anne Campagnet-Reed 3 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Wow, that vid from Ray Kurzweil really blew my neocortex. As you traced communication from verbal through symbolic (print, then digital), to the ubiquitous cloud, I couldn't help but think, yes, the delivery systems have vasty sped up and the networks grow exponentially every day; but what is happening to the quality of the interactions? Is it dwindling in inverse proportion to the speed and ease of connecting? When Kurzweil talks about the ability to appreciate a poem or a piece of music, and, by extrapolation, emotion shared between two people, do we somehow lose touch with the quality of the human experience when it is mediated by ultra high-speed signals and shortened text and twitter messages? Just wondering ...

    • goatfury profile image
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      Andrew Smith 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Pawpaw, that's kind of up to us, I think. I do believe we're going to be biologically enhanced very soon, and I do believe collective consciousness (which is going to have to be a future Hub) is going to be the way to go, but I also don't think we have to lose our identity in order to make these things a reality.

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      Jim 3 years ago from Kansas

      It is hard to imagine the changes that will occur from now till my youngest grandchild becomes an adult. I still remember black and white TV.

      Are we headed the way of the Borg?