While many people discuss and gripe about the slowness of the world’s innovation, it is clear that a lot has changed. Our world may look similar to that of our parents, however, this perception is merely focused on external conditions. We still do not travel in Jetsonian-like flying cars, live on other planets, or live well into our 200’s. For the most part our world looks like the one of thirty years ago with a lot of technological advancements. Despite this external visage, a lot has changed internally.
Technology has changed our social interactions on many levels. The ways we interact with our peers is often from afar (like when people used to write letters) and with an additional level of detachment (due to technology). Interactions that would never occur in person, constantly happen within other mediums. We don’t mind spending hours on social media while our Saturday nights pass on by. We are physically alone much more, yet feel more connected than ever.
These effects are all pretty eminent. I am particularly interested in the effects of a significantly more interconnected world (at large).
- Has this caused us to be more informed of events across the globe? Yes, certainly.
- Are we more concerned about such events? Eh, maybe a little.
- Do we talk and engage with people we never could get connect with in person? Most of us probably have on some level.
The question I am most intrigued by is the following:
Is this interconnection changing our acceptance of others, our values, and bridging the “cultural gap?” Is our unparalleled access changing the way we develop and decreasing many of the differences we once had (because of our upbringings and locations)?
My opinion (without empirical research), is that many changes have occurred over the years. Before the inundation of information and global connections, we were much more limited in what we learned and absorbed. If we never traveled to a particular area, we probably never spoke to one of it’s natives or knew any obscure information about it (unless we went out of our way to investigate at the library and even then were limited to whatever was present). We knew what we knew and that was pretty much it. On an even more basic and interpersonal level, blacks and whites were quite segregated not too long ago. There was naturally going to be phrases, styles of speech, ideas, styles of dress, and a plethora of other “stuff” we would never encounter. This limited our values and understanding of the actions we would do regularly. This would cause us to default and cling to the information and values of our families and locations.
Let’s take a very simple example: a group of children are playing a game of some sort with a set of rules they have known and are pretty standard within their neighborhood. Another group of children from a different location join them and play essentially the same game with a few variations. Both groups will most likely continue using the rules they are accustomed to. However, their understanding (albeit of something quite trivial) has changed;they now recognize their rules as unique to them and that not everyone is the same. Perhaps a minority of them may even eventually change their habits slightly.
The world is literally wide open at this point. We no longer resort to clinging to local habits, and when we do, we view them differently. A lot of our uniqueness and distinct traits are slowly decreasing. We are ultimately left with a few distinct accents, some unique pronunciations, and interesting phrases.
It is interesting to note that technology has decreased a lot of our unique characteristics in another way. The concept of a “franchise/chain company” has really taken off. The internet, and logistic/supply chain operations have made it possible to have stores literally all over the world. The demise of America’s Mom and Pop establishments is often immediately attributed to Wal-Mart. While it is certainly true that Wal-Mart’s prices have crushed such stores, every company with numerous locations has contributed as well. A statewide company that currently has 500 locations, most likely did not have such a footprint 50 years ago. While this company grew, inevitably it killed out some of the smaller and weaker competitors (eventually). Instead of 10 unique restaurants in each neighborhood, 5/10 are the same chains just in different locations. Along with the lost income (usually by the local community) has been the unique characteristics of the previous company. That company’s unique personality and imprint on its neighborhood and city has disappeared.
If you ever want to see a great example of this, try going to a bunch of suburbs within one city. Every shopping center and mall look exactly alike, with the same companies. Suburban America looks very similar throughout. If you were blindfolded and dropped off in one, it would be very difficult to discern where you were. Even the urban areas of our cities, have a lot of the same stores and companies. However, there are still patches of establishments that are embedded within the city’s fabric. Take for example, Primanti’s restaurant in Pittsburgh. It is well known by visitors (and residents) as a cultural piece of the city’s history. I imagine that back in the day there were a lot more cultural mainstays and influences.
The world is changing at a rapid pace and exposing us to information and experiences we could never dream of. As we continue (full steam ahead), let us try to not let these developments erode the values/traits that our uniquely ours.