I think I was still a kid when:—
- computers were reserved for teachers only;
- only during computer class were students allowed to use them;
- students used notebooks (the traditional variant) during class;
- we looked upon those who brought a laptop into class to take notes on as probably someone even more “special” than maybe Kim Jeong-un (who apparently was educated in Switzerland; it doesn’t show, though, as his threat of nukes doesn’t look like a neutral solution!)
OK. I digress — I went a little off on “Li’l Kim”. But still, even in the early 2000s (remember, this is the 21st century!), we used computers in ways that you had to save a file on one computer. And there was just about no way to finish it off on a second without emailing it to you! (Emailing yourself sure sounds weird, but oh well…!)
But then we had this weird thing called MediaWiki (and also WordPress) appearing. Suddenly, you could write stuff, save it as a draft (or as the real thing), and edit it on another machine without anything out of the blue happening. Then we had Dropbox. And now, cloud services, including Apple’s iCloud. Suddenly, we take the ability to start things on one device and to finish it off on another device — snap, just like that — as granted!
On the one hand, our lives have never been as digitised as today. You see it all in 7 year olds on high speed trains in our part of the world, who get busy with Temple Run whilst cruising at 300+ km/h. You see it in Yours Truly, who finished one tad of this article in Room A, and then gets the other part done on the Metro, before assembling it in another place — with probably another device.
We are living in an era of a completely different computing paradigm. Not only has Twitter fragmented information delivered to us, but we are also fragmenting our works. Are what we’re coming out with of a higher quality? Probably not — it’s hard to do a chef d’oeuvre when your mind isn’t exactly in one centralised place at one fixed time. But maybe it is the case, after all — if you suddenly hit upon the ideal blog post whilst commuting on Line 6, you can now finish it off in the office.
For better or for worse, we as computer-ised (let’s face it) humans have changed the ways in which we think, thanks to both the computer and, in particular, the Internet. We don’t even need to look at how different we’ll be by the 22nd century (God save me if I can still be here for this). We’ll look at ourselves in yet again a different computing-related paradigm by the end of this decade alone.
About 10 years ago, I’d have thought a trip to Changsha, South China, by train, would take maybe two or three days. Now, you do that in just about 5-6 hours on a fast train. About a decade back, I thought the Internet was only here to send emails and to do basic web pages where you tooted your horn. I never thought the era of the Internet became that where we are online by default (instead of being offline). Is the future scary? It’s not going to be the same as the past, that’s a given. It’s scary if you see black — and otherwise if you see any other colour.
Especially if you’re an optimist.
Ideally, a digitised one.