Two very interesting statistics came to my notice this week:
· Cities and towns cover 2.7% of the surface of the planet, over 50% of the world population live there, they use 75% of all the energy produced and in turn, they produce 80% of all emissions.
· Of a total world population of 7billion, 5billion have mobile (cell) phones and there are more than 7 billion in use. Moreover the estimate is that smart phone usage itself will exceed 5.1 billion by 2019.
Both of these stats emphasise the dramatic changes that have taken place on this planet over the past fifty or so years. Dramatic isn’t really a strong enough word; extraordinary is probably nearer the truth.
The fact is that the rate of change in the last fifty years has been exponential and this has taken with it the rate of change in the availability of data that is readily available to us via Google and other search engines.
As usual, the gloom mongers and naysayers tell us that the web is a repository of incorrect, dangerous and misleading information and we should therefore treat it with great care and suspicion. For goodness sake, we have been saying that about newspapers for years so what is so different?
One of the most compelling effects of these changes has been the compression of time; not actually but apparently. We now expect a response to our communication, probably through text or email, in hours and preferably minutes, whereas even twenty years ago, we had to wait for a snail mail response which could take days if not weeks.
Urgency has shortened, we are constantly distracted by that ping which tells us that another text message or email has arrived and we must read it and reply instantly.
We can see the demise of email, possibly in the next ten years as the use of messaging on social networking sites takes over. And how long will those social networking platforms last before something else arrives out of left field to improve our lives?
None of this is right or wrong, good or bad. It is simply the reality of the way in which our lives have been changed and it is up to us as to whether is for the better.
Sure, we can contract out if we wish; it is always a matter of choice. For example, we can change the cities and the environment by moving out and living a simpler, less compressed existence in the country.
The fact is that aspirations and expectations among those currently living outside the cities will inevitably draw them there to live a more fulfilled existence in an urban environment, as they see it (mostly on TV). The movement of population from the countryside to the cities especially in China has been and continues to be, a growing trend.
Change is inevitable and while we can always decide not to join that club, change will still happen around us and by definition affect the way we live. Saying that we are not interested in modern technology is a very King Canute-like approach and just as effective.
By far the best way is to embrace these exciting changes and use them for our benefit.
A hermit who had been in a cave for the last fifty years emerged to find these dramatic changes. He mentioned it to the first person he met who said:
“I have in my pocket a device that can access all the knowledge in the world”
“That is amazing” said the hermit: “What do you use it for?”
“Mainly for looking at pictures of dogs and cats and having bitter arguments with total strangers”
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