Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This Global Village

I was having a drink with my brother last night. I mentioned to him that I am continually amazed at the way in which the world appears to be getting smaller. The information age is well and truly upon us.

Although the internet was invented in the 60's it's only in the last 10 or 15 years that it has exploded to become the beast it is now. It is one of the main contributors to the "shrinking" of planet Earth. When I was at school knowledge, expertise and information were so much harder to gather than they are now. We had to go to libraries, spend copious amounts of time looking things up and ask older people if they could help us. This amount of effort required to gather knowledge meant that kids had to opt in if they wanted to learn.

These days I watch my kids doing their homework and I can't help feeling a little bit envious. All they have to do is go onto google and they can find out any bit of knowledge they need. I am told that some people use different search engines but I don't believe this. My envy is only because I can see the huge benefits of instant knowledge - and I like what I see.

If I need to research something I do the same, a quick search on the net will usually guarantee results, or thousands of them if I don't choose my search criteria well. This access to knowledge is great, I love it and I only wish that it were available 25 years ago. People now don't have to opt in to gain information. All they have to do is stay sat at their desk and use the mouse, usually about 4 inches away from their hand.

Email and text messaging are 2 more factors, although similar, in the world's diminishing size. In the developed world a large percentage of correspondence is made via these mediums. They are both virtually instant, easy to use and fairly cheap once the capital outlay is made for the equipment needed. I recollect writing letters to friends and relatives in Sri Lanka when I was 10 years old. They used to take weeks to arrive and I would wait weeks for a response to them. These days, as soon as I think of something, I can send it as a text and I can get a response within seconds, from anywhere in the world. Except the place where my wife happens to be at the time. An interesting fact is that scientists have now proven that 97.8% of all text messages say either "where are you?" or "what are you doing?"

The development of TV and the media are another way in which our world has shrunk. We can switch on a TV and watch live news coverage from anywhere in the world. We can get real time reporting from the latest battle zone, often with camera crews and reporters in the front line. When massive tragedies occur like the Tsunami the media can keep us informed of events on a minute by minute basis and can help aid reach the required areas quickly, although often still not quickly enough.

So my brother proceeded to tell me that the world is always shrinking. He pointed out that, when Columbus, Sir Walter Raleigh and Hong Kong Phooey were bringing their discoveries back from far flung corners of the globe, the populace felt like the world was shrinking then. He did rather spoil things for me. I had held a vague mental image of the world ticking over slowly for hundreds of years, with the odd invention every once in a while like flight or electricity. Then "bang", everything had gone haywire in the last 20 years with the internet and the information age. He often does this to me. He listens to me, then points out a blatant and obvious flaw in my thinking and I change my mindset. Tosser.

This did get me thinking about the next stage of development and what it will be. It is travel. We have shrunk the "virtual" world to tiny proportions. We can talk, write and look at each other at the click of a mouse. We can gather almost any piece of knowledge we need within seconds, the only limit is our own ability to comprehend. The next piece must be to make worldwide travel quicker and even cheaper. It has already reduced in cost dramatically and I think the trend will continue but the big change to come will be a cut in travel times. I don't know how but I am sure about it.

Since I have started blogging I have seen that people from Sri Lanka, the UK and the US and many other countries are now regular readers and I am truly honoured that this has happened. I can also look at other people's blogs from all over the world. I can gain an insight into the lives of people from Colombo to Caracas. With the advent of things like Google Earth I can look at other countries in the minutest detail. How long before we will have Google Earth or something similar available in real time?

We now live in a massive yet tiny Global Village. It has a mixture of races and cultures. It has an insatiable desire for knowledge with a vast amount already available. So make the most of it.

The best is still to come!


childof25 said...

The problem with 'cheap' travel is that it really isn't cheap. External costs such as those to the environment, ie. emissions and the resulting effects on climate change are not captured by the cheap ticket prices.

Unless we solve the energy and cimate crisis it seems unlikely that we will see truly cheap travel in the near future (of course if some could invent wormhole travel that would be handy)

bodhi said...

i'm writing to you from California. How's the weather there chappy? Bit of rain??
As we get closer, let all get closer in peace. You're more than welcome to visit my mind...er...blog.. anytime.
You write very well and i have enjoyed my visit.

sittingnut said...

as somebody said all this technological change is making everyone(not just ppl with political power) as powerful as 'big brother' in '1984'. we are getting to the stage when we will know (if we want to) everything about everybody at anytime. arther c clark was right, it is a real 'village' where nothing is private.
question is, is it for the better? i think so but ...

Anonymous said...

you say " The next piece must be to make worldwide travel quicker and even cheaper. It has already reduced in cost dramatically and I think the trend will continue but the big change to come will be a cut in travel times. I don't know how but I am sure about it." - Well all this is only possible due to the current cheap supply of oil ( hard to believe given the recent petrol price rises in Sri Lanka) Have you considered how this utopia you write of will be affected when we run out of crude oil, given our lack of investment in alternative forms of transport ( hybrid cars included - They still need oil to function in part ) - You are also aware of the fuel surcharge currently levied by the airlines

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

I think you are correct about cheap travel not really being cheap and I agree with your thoughts that we must solve the energy and climate change crises in order to see truly cheap travel.

I don't think that air travel as we know it will be the form of transport that continues to grow. I have a belief that, at some point in the future, we will invent something that changes the whole travel paradigm.

It has already happened in the area of communication, with the net etc, and I think transport and travel are the areas in which there will be a "big bang" next.

To "anonymous" - I am unsure whether it is a Utopia or not. It is just what I think will happen.

Thanks to all for reading my blog and commenting.