Changing so fast

NASA image, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

NASA image, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Things are changing so fast that what we once called ‘science fiction’ we now call ‘current events.’ “Ashleigh Brilliant

Ashleigh penned that thought in the late 60’s, before humans ever walked on the moon.  Yet now his words are more true than ever, which paradoxically demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

But really, have you ever stopped to wonder what your ten-year-old self would have thought if someone had come to visit you from the future, and told you all about now?  Could you have imagined the internet, digital photography, smart phones, or the availability of hundreds of TV channels, shows, and movies on demand, viewable on a variety of portable devices?  What about medical advances such as fully functional artificial limbs, or robotic heart surgery?  Dick Tracy’s radio watch and Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone would have seemed unimpressive in comparison.

On the other hand, not all of the news from the future would have sounded appealing.  Drones. Terrorists. Environmental disasters. Ebola. Identity theft. The Kardashians.

The good old days weren’t always good for everyone, and not good at all for some of us.  But some of the trade-offs of progress seem dubious at best.  Those of us who remember reading 1984 or Brave New World in high school have lived to see some features of those dystopic nightmares coming true, or at least close enough to be worrisome.

Still, I wouldn’t go back, even if I could.  Would you?  What technology would you miss most if you were suddenly transported back to the world of your childhood?  What “current events” of today remind you of “science fiction” of years past?  And what futuristic notions that now seem impossible might be commonplace in our grandchildren’s world?  Beam us up!

34 Comments

  1. Good morning, Julia! It boggles the mind. As one who struggles to operate a television remote control, I was feeling less than enthusiastic. Then I saw a Groupon to learn Python programming language – and would you belive I signed up??
    And I reserve the right to decline to own a television. With the prerogative to change my mind, if so inclined!
    Well, off to that shortened work-day that our elementary school teachers predicted! Ha! I guess not all predictions are accurate.
    😀
    P.S. Probably the Kardashians have been around since the dawn of time, they just had different names?
    Love to you!

    • Susan, good for you! I don’t remember ever even hearing of Python until your mention of it here. TOTALLY in agreement with you on the TV. It has been the biggest bone of contention between Jeff and me from the very beginning. I have absolutely no use for one, except as a screen for showing a movie now and then. Jeff, on the other hand, seems to feel it’s a necessity right up there with indoor plumbing, though he actually doesn’t spend all that much time with it, and only watches news and occasional ball games.

      The shortened workday went the way of the “paperless office” that computers would supposedly bring (now we have more papers than ever) and the easy-breezy household management that was supposed to come with appliances. It seems that progress mostly just increases our expectations and raises the bar on what is deemed an acceptable level of perfection. Re: the Kardashians, yes, they have no doubt been around for ages, with various names and much less media exposure. I suppose we can’t really blame them for taking advantage of the demand for whatever it is they produce. Love to you too!

  2. This last group of first graders that I taught was one of the most inquisitive I’ve ever seen. Something would come up in storytime or me telling them about and they’d inevitably want to know more. “Can you show us a video about that?” (Meaning the internet and YouTube) became their catch phrase. From King Tut to seahorses, more knowledge was just a click away. I think I would miss that most. Encyclopedias are forgotten relics!

    • I imagine that the teachers I had would have been overjoyed to have the resources we have today. I recall watching them struggle with threading those film projectors so we could watch a short b&w film. We always loved it when we got to “see a movie” in class. But whenever I think of the advantages of digital media, it’s the hypertext link that comes to my mind first. I definitely don’t miss dragging out one volume of the encyclopedia after another, just to look up cross references. And I remember how thrilled I was in the early 90’s, when my sons could not only read about people such as Roosevelt, Lindbergh and Martin Luther King Jr., but also see film clips of them and hear recordings of their voices at the click of a mouse. Videos are a matchless tool for getting information across, but I do wonder how well today’s students can imagine a story simply from the text. Judging by the pre-movie success of the Harry Potter series, it seems there is not much to worry about on that count.

      The only downside of having all this information at our fingertips, is that it makes it very difficult (at least for me) to stay focused in depth on one topic. Rabbit-chasing has never been easier or more fun! Down the rabbit hole with Alice I go!

  3. Julia, great post.
    The only drawback from modern technology is that it marginalizes relationships. And I, to some extent, am a guilty party.
    Here’s an image: Husband, wife and kids are all in the same room, each focused on their respective hand held devices, with the TV also on.
    Now remove all the devices from the image. They have to pay attention to each other.
    Many have lost self worth, because of so little attention paid. Too much value has been placed on our things.
    -Alan

    • Alan, I agree. I remember that my own parents were very busy too, far busier than I would have liked sometimes, but even then they were busy mostly with things that involved other people; community, church and neighborhood groups, having people over for dinner, visiting over coffee with other adults while the kids were sent outdoors to play. I worry about our society’s increasing preference to connect to people via media, where there is no direct contact and one can remain as anonymous (and detached) as one chooses. Blogs and other places where people can connect one-to-one or in groups don’t bother me nearly as much as things such as “reality” television and tabloid-style celebrity “news” stories, which seem to me to be basically a counterfeit means of sensing other humans in our lives. It’s like a way of pretending to care about people without having any demands made on us; turn them off and on at will, and otherwise have nothing to do with them. I think blogs have evolved as one means of countering that faceless and ultimately empty feeling of being only on the receiving end of communication. Most blogs allow and encourage participation, which is the best part about having a blog, in my opinion. Thanks for participating here!

  4. I was talking with Paul, my landlord about that very subject today. Paul is 55 and I’m 66. In our lifetime so many things have gone the way of the dinosaur. Cassette tapes and 8 tracks. VHS is up against the ropes. Rotary phones, floppy disks and even the incandescent light bulbs are on the way out. Kodak, Radio Shack, McDonnell Douglas and Avondale Mills, are all gone or close to gone. These were giants of industry, now relegated to the history books. Pay telephones that accepted coins and even the postal blue boxes from the Post Office are dying out. Kids today have no idea who the Beatles are or Janis Joplin. Rock & Roll as we know it is aging as are the Rolling Stones. U2 band members, manager and relatives are all dying off. We’re yesterday’s news, face it!

    • Bob, if the Beatles, Stones and U2 are yesterday’s news, I’ll be proud to claim membership in that club! On a more serious note, it helps to see these once-modern innovations (such as 8 track) as stepping stones to better things. I grew up enjoying the products of Kodak, Radio Shack and McDonnell Douglas (though I always preferred Boeing) but with the possible exception of aircraft– nobody will ever beat the 727 or 747 in my view– I think today’s digital photography and music are far preferable. Having said that, if anybody reading this would like some VHS tapes, vinyl records or cassette tapes, I’ll be happy to send you some for free. I can’t bear to throw all of them away yet, though I did finally get rid of my much-loved 8 tracks.

  5. Very interesting post, Julia. I don’t miss anything in the past. Each new day and each new something excites me. I’m an old woman who has no desire to go back to “the way it was”. Relationships were not all so close even then. I am able to communicate more and better now that we have all those wonderful gadgets. I have a group of local physical friends but even more virtual friends that enrich my life so much. So many of us have moved so far from family and I can keep in touch. They have made as many wonderful things as destructive. It’s the balance of the universe. I’m anxious to see what’s new.

    • Marlene, I think you make some important points here, especially about relationships. Though people of generations past may have been closer in terms of the number of hours spent together, not all were close on an emotional level. Many families stayed together unhappily simply because there were no alternatives. And I think those relationships would not have disappeared if they had been so close to begin with. Probably it’s partly a personality thing; some of us are more “wired” to seek connection than others. I’ve often said that my husband and older son could happily live as hermits, although that’s a slight exaggeration. Not so for me! I find people fascinating, lovable and as necessary to me as the air I breathe. I do think many of us find it easier than ever to connect with kindred spirits, as well as enjoying the viewpoints of people from vastly different backgrounds than our own. I too am very thankful for the wonderful capabilities of communication we have today. As you point out, almost every good thing can also be a bad thing if used excessively or with malevolence. I guess it keeps us on our toes to make sure these wonderful advances are our servants and not our masters.

      Like you, I’m anxious and excited to see what’s coming next. At the same time, I honestly and truly feel grateful to have lived when I did. I think our generation has lived through one of the most exciting eras in history. For those of us who were fortunate enough to be protected from the warfare, genocide, hunger and catastrophe that still plagues far too many people on this earth, we who managed to avoid all that on a personal level can say honestly that we have been blessed with abundance that previous generations would not have imagined.

      • I’m grateful too to be born in an era of leading edge change. More has changed in the last 100 years than in the last 1000. Time is speeding up and we are all hanging on for the E ticket ride. That would be the Disneyland biggest roller coasters oh, so many years ago. My kids could be hermits too. My son likes to have someone around but is still very solitary. Daughter, could live entirely without people like her dad. Me, I’m like you. I need community and connection. I’m the oddball in my family.
        Counting our blessings helps us see that more is good in life than not. I do it daily. I like the servant/master way of looking at the devices. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend Julia. It’s too hot today so I’m working indoors. 🙂

        • Marlene, how I remember those E ticket rides! I can remember all the other levels too, especially that I always found the C ticket rides (Peter Pan especially) better than some of the D tickets (I never could figure out how the Enchanted Tiki Room scored a D ticket). Isn’t it interesting how we gregarious types tend to end up with the hermits? I think it’s because each partner in an “opposites” pair recognizes a need to be a bit more like the other. I certainly have lived a more sane schedule in the 35 years Jeff and I have been married. Still, I know what it’s like to be the different one in the family. I lived so many years with four males (even Pasha was a male, with personality to match his gender) that I sometimes forgot many “normal” people enjoyed slow mornings, chatting over tea, exploring little shops, working on crafts…

          It was too hot here to work outside too, so I puttered around doing one small chore after another until after about 6 pm. But then it was wonderful. I planted some things and put in some edging around one of our flowerbeds. Jeff dug up a dead shrub and re-planted it with a new one. Yard work is SO therapeutic!

          • Yard work is my meditation center. No one bothers me there and I can spend endless hours outside as long as it’s not too warm. Next week, a cooling spell. Yay. As for personalities, I noticed that when I was married to a very quiet introvert, I became the extrovert. When I was married to an extrovert who talked incessantly, I became extremely quiet and started writing. I had to find balance in my life somehow. We are drawn to opposites most often. You are the first person that knew what an E-ticket ride was! Most just look at me funny. 🙂 Hugs.

            • I can identify with what you say about getting quiet around extroverts — as impossible as it may seem to some people who know me, there are those around whom I am the quiet one. I remember when I worked in a department store and used to crave going to lunch by myself. Everyone always seemed to wonder why I liked to do that, but after four hours of talking with customers and co-workers nonstop, I relished sitting at a table for one and just daydreaming while I ate, without having to say a word. I hope you have an “E ticket” week this week! 😀

    • Ahh, Marlene…a lady after my heart! Books is my first love but I enjoy my desk top, lap top, Kindle and my smart phone!… ❤

      • 🙂 No desk top for me but the kindle, laptop, tablet and smartphone all have books on them too. I put a bookcase next to my bed to get the books out of my bed. I couldn’t turn over anymore. The headboard and nightstand are loaded. Bookstores and Amazon are dangerous places for us aren’t they? 🙂

  6. Jack

    A businessman’s perspective: technology has knocked down the barriers that precluded competitors from finding customers, figuring out how to serve them, offering better, quicker solutions. To “win” now, whatever that means, you’ve got to provide value (think cheap prices, great service, immediate problem resolution), but if you can figure that out, you’ll out compete the rest. The consumer wins, but does he? He gets great value, but leverages himself to the hilt with stuff. (great quote from Christian author Patrick Morley in Man in the Mirror, we’re “buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”)

    Most of us are just fine, though, with being average. But average doesn’t attract capital, customers or employees. So take a swig of Pepcid, get your iPhone out, answer your emails at 1100 at night and deal with it. Because it ain’t going anywhere!!

    • Jack, thanks for giving us another angle on this issue. Your question “The consumer wins, but does he?” has a lot of layers, each more disturbing than the one before. This article in the WSJ really caught my eye. I can see so many advantages to technology when it comes to being a consumer…but to paraphrase something Andy Rooney said decades ago, computers make it easier to do a lot of things, but some of them aren’t worth doing in the first place. Perhaps it’s true that “it ain’t going anywhere” but I still think we can try to minimize our own role in it as consumers. As a business owner, maybe not so much. I have lived pretty much my entire life with minimal exposure to the business person’s point of view, so I appreciate your thoughts here. BTW it also reminds me that somewhere along the way, technology destroyed the last remains of the 5-day work week, and now, for many if not most people, there’s pressure to be on call 24/7. Yikes!

      • Jack

        Lest you believe I’m not a fan though, technology also closes distance, collapses the time required for mundane tasks and miraculously, has just now allowed a FaceTime chat with a child in Spain. The upside far outweighs the downside, and the downside is really just the upside run amuck.

        What a wonderful life!

        • Jack, I can say a hearty “amen” to that. It really is a wonderful life, even though it doesn’t always seem so to us at the time.

  7. HarryS

    I’ve been revisiting a local nursery for the last several days becoming more enchanted with a Calibrachio flower.
    The one I selected is an enchanting orange bloomer, just loaded with blossoms. It doesn’t have any scent that I can discern but its beauty penetrates deep into this one’s soul and just lingers. Investigation finds it is a native of South America and grows wild on the prairies of Brazil and Peru. It is a close relative to the Petunia family which we are all so familiar with.
    I’m looking forward to much joy with this new pal of mine.

    After all didn’t he promise us a more abundant life?

    I certainly have enjoyed one!

    We are also promised, “More will be revealed”.

    With the profound implication that we are all constantly changing as we come to “When we know better we do better”, Chuck C .declared that he has breakfast with a different woman every morning.

    He doesn’t have anything on me.

    • Harry, I’ve had my eye on those lovely flowers since I first began seeing them a couple of years ago. I really intend to get one or many as soon as I have a chance to learn a bit more about them; maybe you can give me some hints after you have had awhile to learn about yours. I love petunias but they tend to get so leggy toward the end of summer. From what I’ve seen of the calibr. flowers, they don’t seem to do that as much, and the smaller flowers are exquisite.

      Re: Chuck C.’s quote and your response — HA! Jeff feels your pain bewilderment joy! 😀

      • HarryS

        You’re a sorta DUDE! 🙂

        • I will take that as a compliment. 😀

  8. Julia…good morning. interesting subject. When you think of families sitting, reading their books…is it much different than their smartphones?
    blessings… ❤

    • Merry, now that you mention it, maybe it isn’t so different. Whether it’s books or cell phones, I think there’s something to be said for sitting quietly together in the same room, even when pursuing different interests. Having said that, though, I recall how we learned in library school that authors such as Austen and Dickens wrote with the expectation of being read aloud, as was common in those days. Apparently there was a time when one family or group member would read aloud to all the others, as a form of entertainment. Remembering how I used to enjoy library circle time when I was a kid, I wouldn’t mind seeing that come back into style.

      Being quite new to having any sort of smart phone, I have been a bit chagrined to catch myself “reading” it in public places, especially while waiting in line for something. Now that I have a smart phone, I end up spending a lot more time on Pinterest than I did before…now I’m one of those people with my nose in my phone! Not all the time, though. I’m still not into texting as I’ll never get used to trying to type without using all my fingers! So SLOW!!!

  9. Good Sunday morning, Julia. We were surprised at our automated international flight check-in last week returning from Paris. The process involved copying our passports, issuing a boarding pass, printing our luggage info,etc. It was quick, info checked later by a human, and we were in Atlanta nine hours later. We commented about how many more “responsibilities” will become computerized in coming years. My suitcase went to Philadelphia instead of Myrtle Beach so who (or what) to blame? 😬 We are at Willow Tree, windows open, birds singing, cup of java…. Thank you, Lord! 🙏

    • Oh dear, it’s not easy to understand how “PHL” could be confused with “MYR” (or was it “CHS”)? They must be nearly identical in ones and zeros, hee-hee. I hope your suitcase was redirected in a speedy fashion. We probably aren’t too far away from some sort of biomarker identification systems (fingerprints, voice tones, facial recognition) but I’m sure the computers will find ways to mis-direct our luggage. I’m glad you are back to enjoying your time at Willow Tree. Our Verandah for this month looks like just the ticket for me right now!

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