The New Electricity

by

  Our species’ tool-making and tool-using ability has gone to an extreme. We have all heard over and over that technology is changing every aspect of our life, that with which we are most familiar. To say that the technology is changing the world has become a general statement that we have grown tired of hearing. The interesting, more specific branch of that statement would be to say that a new style of existence has just begun to change the world and our existence; every side of every coin has a role on the internet: artistic creation and scientific computation, business products and shareware/freeware, paid services and free utilities, political dissent and political support, journalism and opinion, entertainment and work, freedom and censorship – it all exists on the internet. We have taken the tangible and translated it into a new digital form. What effect is this having on society? How will it evolve in, say, a hundred years? Beyond that? These are questions we cannot answer, and the futurists who try to predict these are not usually correct. All that we can do is see what it is doing to us now; what changes has it already caused? What benefits and dangers exist because of our reliance on internet-based data and networks?
    The more fruitful question that can be posed beckons introspection rather than an analysis on society. How have I changed because of this? What would I do if these services, products, and networks were not available to me? Now I have an answer because I can answer these questions personally. I do rely on my computer, my ipod, my cellular too heavily. All three of these devices access the internet, and they provide me the current news 24/7 with continual updates every hour. I don’t go an hour without using one of these three devices. I have gone a day or two without the internet and the effects were unsettling. I would actually feel more stressful because I felt disconnected from the world – in the dark – even though my feet were on the same ground, even though I could see the same faces, even though I can be in the same places. It wasn’t that I predominately use the internet all the time; this isn’t the case. It is what I use the internet for which caused the distress. I use it to know current events multiple times a day, to check my main form of correspondence (email), and to research. These three constitute my personal reliance on the services of the internet, and I can speak of their importance to myself more precisely than I could of the whole, general society.
    I have used the internet for multiple things, uploading and downloading files (rapidshare, megaupload, putfile, etc) , finding music (hype.com, pandora.com, editing photos (picnik.com), and many utilities. They provide an extremely different web experience than what I remember from the year 2000. I cannot say where I think we are headed, nor can I try to argue some sort of social commentary. This is how I use the internet. Anyone connected to it can see what Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch references when he speaks of the radical changes of technology and its effect on us. Most young Americans can understand our own reliance to technology and the web utility, and we can put together some sort of general picture of the effects on our collective society. Carr has years and years of experience in this field, and he has knowledge of terminology and history regarding the tech revolution. He tries to explain the switch of society towards web utility and advanced technology using this knowledge and experience. As my personal experience is not worthy of the book format, a blog post or two will do just fine.

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