The Internet and Communications Technology - Our Ever Changing World
Moore’s law basically states that the capabilities of our technology will double every 18 months. This law of exponential growth has held true in almost every piece of technology that we can think of. The field of internet and communications technology (ICT) is no different. The explosive growth of the Internet is a prime example of this as is the growth of mobile phone usage.
Growth of Web Based Technologies
Google was one of the first companies to jump onto the ICT bandwagon. They are constantly adding new features to their website every day. There are now a host of free technologies that are offered by Google to the general public. These include but are not limited to: Google Search, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Alerts, Google Voice, Google Books, … etc. All of these technologies have spawned from information and communication technology. It is now easier than ever to find a phone number, order take out, or to look up information on your favorite author. Does anyone know what an atlas is anymore? Just 15 years ago, we didn’t have any of this technology. Our world has changed significantly in just a very short period of time.
I still consider the Internet in its infancy; its only been around for a few decades (public use anyways). While the Internet is indeed a large place (and growing extremely fast) I believe that there are still many new opportunities to be explored and many new technologies to be created. The next frontier to be conquered is likely artificial intelligence. Scientists and engineers are making advancements every day. It won't be long before you won't be able to tell a difference between an A.I. or a human.
If you think about it, mobile phones haven't been around for that long either. They were first made available to the public in the late 1990s. All this rapid change has happened in less than a few decades. Imagine what the world will be like in just another decade! Will cell phones shrink so small that they become nearly invisible (or possibly nano-scale implantable devices)? Will computers become so powerful that they can see a human error before it even happens? Will people even be able to have jobs because technology has taken over? While some of these ideas sound far-fetched, any one of them could be a part of possible future.
Freedom with Technology
People will have more freedoms in the future than they have now. Personal freedom of choice will be the dominant ideology in the future. The Internet already gives us many more choices today than we had in the past. Don't want to go the store? You can choose to shop online instead. Don't feel like going to the library? You can choose to check out books from Amazon and Google instead. This functionality of the internet will only become easier to use and more popular as time goes on.
It won’t be long before people won’t have to leave their homes. Want fresh hot food? That’s one IP address away. Want movies, TV, and video games? Just click a few buttons on your computer or speak a few words to Alexa and you have instant entertainment. Need to go to work? Well now you can work from home and collaborate with coworkers in real time through any one of a variety of web-based video technologies. Anything and everything will become home capable in the future. In the future, I foresee an increase in shipping businesses and a decrease in brick-and-mortar retail businesses.
The Strain on Our Infrastructure
All of these increases in technology have put a large strain on the current infrastructure. Cities will have to manage this changes, and they will have to do it quickly. Many smaller cities still don’t have standards in place for the installation and maintenance of modern fiber optics. What will happen when every device in the city relies on a single set of fragile glass cables, and those cable get cut? Combine this with the fact that most of our nation's infrastructure is already 50+ years old, its not unlikely that we could experience an infrastructure failure in the future.
Cities and states will also have to deal with lost revenues as the brick and mortar store slowly disappear. Ever slow as governments may be to change, it is inevitable that they will begin to use the internet to increase revenues. Many municipalities have already begun drafting bills to tax the internet. This doesn't just include internet retail sales either. Government will evolve into eGovernment and the citizens of will experience something that has truly never been done before. Taxes are a for sure thing, no matter how controversial it becomes.
There are other things to consider as well. An increasing use of wireless technology has already started to create “traffic jams” on our airwaves. Cell phones, radio, and the like compete for use of prime frequencies. In the future, it's probable that there will be no place on the planet that is free of “noise" on the airwaves.
While humanity will likely find a way to solve this problem, there is still the question of how these electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) impact the human body. There's already been numerous studies that seem to show a correlation between increase brain cancer risk and the use of cellular phones. If you really think about it, it doesn't sound too far-fetched to think that these EMF's can really harm the body. In fact, the everything in the body technically relies on the use of electromagnetic signals from the brain to function. When we saturate ourselves with EMFs, it can undoubtedly create problems at the cellular level in the body.
An Increasing Dependence on Batteries
But with change comes consequences. Everyone’s mobile phones, computers, and other devices consume a significant amount of power. Newer devices, although they may be more efficient, will still require efficient, stored energy. Advances in battery technology will need to be made to keep up with the ever changing demands of our devices. Its foreseeable that Lithium may one day become a very expensive and rare element. In fact, lithium is already considered a rare material.
However, with each problem that arises, new machines and methods get invented to solve it (thus changing technology again and so on and so forth). It's much like the saga of the electric car, which is only now gaining major popularity. The new electric vehicle technology has finally allowed it to compete with traditional gasoline powered vehicles. In time, the use of electric vehicles will become widespread.
Humanity's Dependence on Technology
When we rely too much on technology and the systems that support our way of life, we set ourselves up for failure. When natural disaster strikes, the systems can go away and people will not be able to cope in a world without technology. The sale or purchase of goods will be halted and people will have trouble getting to work or sustaining their life. Our increased reliance on technology means that we are quickly losing our ability to survive in a world without it.
We've left the industrial age, passed the information age, and entered the virtual age. The available technology is and will continue to rapidly change and evolve. The tribulations and triumphs of the future are unknowable, but it is certain that these changes will continue to have an ever lasting effect on our world. It is also certain that cities, agencies, and every individual in the country will experience the profound rewards and detriments of this changing world.
© 2011 Christopher Wanamaker