Computers are Changing Society

If you haven’t experienced this yet, you soon will:

You’re in a restaurant and you notice a group of teenagers sitting at a table quietly tapping away on their cell phones when suddenly they all burst out laughing. They’re sending text messages (I still try to avoid turning text into a verb) to one another instead of just opening their mouths and talking. Afterall, they are right there together!

Now imagine as your smart phone (or other portable computing device) gets smarter. It already knows where it is at any moment so it can make location specific decisions. What if it also knew enough about you to order your coffee for you as you approached your local Starbuck’s? Or if it could remind you of the name of the person approaching you along with a tidbit about how you know him? What if it monitored your vital statistics and scheduled doctors visits and vacations based on your physical condition?

No one can deny that computer technology has changed our society. Most would find it difficult to say that it isn’t going to continue to change us. That’s not really a new thing. Technology has always transformed the way our society operates. Primitive tools helped us move from gatherers to hunters. More advanced tools helped us move to farming, then to trades, then to factories, and so on. The notable thing about the Information Technology effect is the rate at which this change is occurring. The fax machine was patented in the 1950s. It didn’t reach it’s heyday until the 1980s. The first iPhone debuted in 2007 and people who own them are a bit embarrassed to let others know they’re still using “that old thing.”

The rate of change has even created some noticeable differences in the way people who grew up in the wired world compared to their older counterparts, according to cognitive scientists. What does it mean? Who knows. It does mean that we’re changing in real, measurable ways. Don’t worry though, we’ll still be human.

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