Technology has been changing human existence since the invention of the wheel and earlier. We often overlook this actual definition of technology since the technology of the last 50 years had to with computers and electronics, in the public mind. This last half century reinvented the wheel and almost everything else several times over, drastically changing human life.
Cars whizzing by with human bodies in them certainly resulted in huge death tolls. Eventually, engineers and designers focused on softening out the edges of these machines and including more safety features. The US has seen a reduction of about 5 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles over this period. Some other countries saw similar decreases.
Mobility and Commerce
Beyond road travel, cheaper air travel has also allowed people to move vast distances for travel and work. Even cars and trains couldn’t transport people and goods fast enough to make today’s economy possible. A person could walk into Vineland Electronics or local outlets and end up with a product manufactured and assembled in distant countries. Now, people can take more advantage of economies of scale almost anywhere in the world and get the food and goods they want.
The interwoven uses of existing technologies have broken down regional and national barriers to a large extent. People still exhibit regional and national differences, but they can keep tabs on others more easily. A person in a rural outpost can still follow what is happening with their favorite band in a big city or on the other side of the world and even join virtual communities about them.
Technology makes communication faster, but also changes how people talk. Handheld devices encourage shorter messages. Email can transmit short messages or reams of information in small attachments. People can call friends or business contacts abroad on a whim for free or next to nothing. Despite this speed, some of the privacy and intimacy of communication might have been lost.
The days of ledgers and large storage rooms have long disappeared. Online or desktop worksheets automatically calculate data and users can store most things electronically. Some formulas in various rows and columns do a lot of the work that used to rely on human number crunching. As things move to the cloud, it is less uncommon to have this information stored on massive computers thousands of miles from the user’s location.
How People View Time
A lot of these developments have sped life up, which makes people view time differently. On the other hand, technology has freed up time in many ways. For example, people depend less on specific times and dates to watch television shows or other content they want since they can record it digitally or just watch it on demand.
The rapid technological progress of the last half century has been a mixed bag, but very positive in many ways. The people from just a few generations ago would have trouble getting their heads around the changes to everyday life. How we interact with the new technologies of today will help determine what life changing innovations appear in the world of tomorrow.