Over the course of history, new technologies have created global shifts and fueled the forward momentum of countries and empires. Every new invention — from the mobile cannon to movable type — has left its mark on humankind. The current technology impacting people on a worldwide scale is the Internet, and we are just beginning to understand its impact on our daily lives.
If you took a smart phone back to the time of the Salem Witch Trials, and showed the Internet (and the vast amount of information it contains) to the men who sentenced the women of Salem to hang (also figuring you could get crystal clear connectivity, along with time travel), they’d suspect you were also in league with dark forces, and being imprisoned or hanged would be in your immediate future.
Even if you only made a much shorter trip through time, back to the early 1960s, the smart phone you brought with you would far outstrip any piece of technology NASA had at the time, much less government security agencies, or large corporations. The tech we use daily is the stuff of science fiction television shows from the 1960s.
Let’s say you could use your same all-purpose time machine (with crystal clear cellular connection) to transport back a citizen of the United States from the 1700s, and show them the wonders of future life in 2012: heart transplants, flying machines that could go as far as the moon and metal body parts for when knees or hips wore out. The list could go on, but even this strange bit of news would cause our innocent visitor to think the world had gone crazy and people had messed with primal forces they never should have messed with.
The laptop, tablet or smart phone you’d be using to show our modern world to this visitor from the 1700s is a key component of our digitally connected world, but the technology everyone accesses with their electronic communication devices is the Internet.
In time travel movies, visitors from the past used to get a brief update of our future world and how we got here by watching TV, which inevitably showed them a speeded-up version of the wonder and horrors of the twentieth-century, until they were exhausted and confused after processing an abbreviated version of a world driven mad by technology run amok.
In the book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr cites studies which prove how specific neurological pathways of our brains have already been rewired by the Internet.
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