I am a ‘baby boomer’, born in 1952. I and other baby boomers have lived through a period of accelerating and dramatic change both culturally socially and technologically.
We have lived through a period of relative stability and growth, we have seen increases in wages, thriving businesses, and an increase in the variety and quantity of products for consumers. Our ‘generation’ was the first to experience such a dramatic change compared to the previous generation (our parents) and those before it. Whilst progress was happening (of course) it was very slow compared to post 1960.
I have conversations with my mother (she is 90 years old) and her contemporaries, the difference in our attitudes, beliefs and in some cases Knowledge or access to it is noticeable. In particular there is a clear and distinct digital divide between us and our parents generation. Largely because ‘digital’ did not exist for our parents. The digital divide has also led to a Knowledge Divide, where individuals who can access the information digitally can also interpret and understand information presented once connected. the other side of this, is that, it is claimed that 60% of the world’s population, almost 4 billion people, have no access to the Internet.
This accelerating change is now beginning to cause noticeable problems for our societies, putting pressure on them because we cannot keep up!
accelerating change is a perceived increase in the rate of technological change throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future and may or may not be accompanied by equally profound social and cultural change.
The Edge of Change
The USA is now home to the top 5 global tech companies, who are based in California bringing together the biggest asymmetry of Wealth, Knowledge and Information. However the East is now catching up with China in the lead.
Pre the Coronavirus pandemic the world was already witness to substantial change. Some called it “The Great Acceleration” fuelled by three forces Technology, Globalization and Climate Change, they are having a profound effect on our thinking about how we can rework! our lives, societies and economies.
Amol Rajan of the BBC called it Vast, Fast and Epochal in the Rethink series of programs.
Societies are beginning to fracture all around the world. The pace of acceleration is such that governments around the world are not keeping up! and they are struggling to cope. Flowing from this is what we witness as Geopolitical conflicts and national conflicts where individuals struggle with their identities and values. A major factor in all of this is education or lack of appropriate education. School practices about teaching and what they teach is now decades out of touch. However some teaching/learning has moved online and some of it is successful slowly some of use are learning to re-learn.
Given all theses stresses already on societies out of the ‘blue’ comes Coronavirus and the resulting pandemic. This pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our systems, our ideologies and our countries .
Already signs are showing of potential long term changes, but the big question is what will our Post Pandemic World be like?
The retail sector is seeing massive change with winners and losers. The losers tending to be those still adhering to the old! ways of how they sell their products. Companies suffering problems now are those that had problems before the pandemic. Likewise the service sector has made a massive change to remote working and it looks like it will stay.
Suddenly we have all discovered Zoom the video communication app and that will certainly stay, however video conferencing has been around for some years, even |Zoom itself. The pandemic has accelerated its take up. In the business sector it is changing the need to travel for meetings, travelling to work (commute) it is speeding up development of ideas and projects. Working from home will see the need for office space become far less important and for some companies obsolete.
Evidence of our accelerating change driven by technology :- Demand for web designers and developers skyrocketed 15.5%, compared to June.
“We’ve seen two years of digital transformation happening in the space of two weeks,” TechUK’s deputy chief executive Anthony Walker told the BBC.
“A lot of business leaders we’ve been talking to, and survey data, shows that digital will be more important to their business, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”
I myself build websites and this can be done sitting in a Costa Coffee shop or even on a beach.
Kurzweil’s The Law of Accelerating Returns
“An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense ‘intuitive linear’ view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate). The ‘returns,’ such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There’s even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to the Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and non biological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.”
Computer related developments
1937 – Bell Labs, Relays for a demonstration Adder
1941 – Alan Turing ‘The Bombe’
1948 – First program! to run on a computer
1956 – Direct input through a keyboard
1966 – First Commercial computer to use integrated curcuits
1971 – First Handheld calculator
1976 – Tandy TRS 80
1980 Commodore Vic 20
1980 – Sinclair ZX 80 – I owned one!
1984 – Apple released the first Macintosh
2007 – First Kindle
2008 – First Airbook
2010 – Retina Display and Ipad
total 73 years and development is accelerting. 1984 was a turning point when things really started to speed up Moores Law can be applied when development of microchips etc doubles every 2 years ( in fact it is now more like 12 months)
Gerald Hawkins’ Mindsteps
In his book “Mindsteps to the Cosmos” (HarperCollins, August 1983), Gerald S. Hawkins elucidated his notion of ‘mindsteps’, dramatic and irreversible changes to paradigms or world views. He identified five distinct mindsteps in human history, and the technology that accompanied these “new world views”: the invention of imagery, writing, mathematics, printing, the telescope, rocket, radio, TV, computer… “Each one takes the collective mind closer to reality, one stage further along in its understanding of the relation of humans to the cosmos.” He noted: “The waiting period between the mindsteps is getting shorter. One can’t help noticing the acceleration.” Hawkins’ empirical ‘mindstep equation’ quantified this, and gave dates for future mindsteps. The date of the next mindstep (5; the series begins at 0) is given as 2021, with two further, successively closer mindsteps in 2045 and 2051, until the limit of the series in 2053. His speculations ventured beyond the technological:
The mindsteps… appear to have certain things in common – a new and unfolding human perspective, related inventions in the area of memes and communications, and a long formulative waiting period before the next mindstep comes along. None of the mindsteps can be said to have been truly anticipated, and most were resisted at the early stages. In looking to the future we may equally be caught unawares. We may have to grapple with the presently inconceivable, with mind-stretching discoveries and concepts.