How so? What have computers, I-Phones, stereos etc. etc. fundamentally changed in our society?Arguably, the invention of the transister has brought about that fundamental change, at least on a par with the Model T.
And yet, what would happen to the world economy if the web...died?The web is indeed a remarkable thing but it isn't revolutionary - it simply makes information available dramatically faster and more easily.
It accelerated things dramatically but didn't fundamentally change anything. The disappearance of BlockBuster and a small percentage of people telecommuting is not exactly the fundamental change wrought by the Model T, let alone the moveable type printing press (the single most important invention in human history).
In the case of Ol' Bessie, society went from one that was 85% agrarian to one that was 95% urban - all due to the near universal availability of the car.
In the case of the Gutenberg press, information became available to the masses instead of just the clergy and the aristocracy.
The web has not created anything like that sort of transformative change.
At least not yet.
I do not agree, especially with regard to "the essential structures and processes of our society." Here are some examples why:They've made things better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more complex but the essential structures and processes of our society are little different from the days of vacuum tubes.
I worked in the business since the days of electomechanical core storage so I'm pretty familiar with it and the effect it's had, along with the changes it wrought.Transisters, and their subsequent miniaturization, and the subsequent development of complex circuit boards to use with them, revolutionized electronics, which, in effect, relieved humans of the need to make long and complicated calculations and to keep paper records. As a result, computers can make tens of thousands of calculations almost instantly, which effectively increases the ability of humans to do work that previously had to be done laboriously with the human brain. Computers can keep, sort and search through data, and human minds are freed up to think more creatively. Indeed, that was what was so significant about the invention of the printing press. Like computers and other electronic devices, it represented a quantum leap forward in making information accessible to the masses.
If you don't see their significance, maybe you're already beginning to take them for granted.
All true, but is that anything but "speeding things up"? Everyone still goes to work (very few really telecommute), drive cars, shop at the nearby markets and so on. Is no longer needing a travel agent to buy tickets a fundamental change? The reduction in bookstores? Internet shopping, while big, is still a fairly small part of the economy - people like to touch what they buy. It also isn't necessarily a big savings either. I have bought everything from books to sets of high performance tires over the web and have found that local shopping is usually cheaper in the end.I do not agree, especially with regard to "the essential structures and processes of our society." Here are some examples why:
- There is no longer any such thing as "a person I used to know." I've contacted people I knew in 4th grade with a couple minutes of searching on the Web (for me, that was almost 40 years ago.) Before the Web that was not possible in any realistic way. This has fundamentally transformed the meaning of human relationships in the context of a life. A relationship that would have lasted a couple years and then receded into the past can now easily go on for decades, along with the influence that one person has over another.
- Being in a particular place at a specific time is far, far less important than it used to be. I can work from a ski lodge, attend a meeting in New York while on a beach in Spain, buy just about anything I want while sitting in the Dr.'s office, etc. This is analogous to the Tin Lizzie enabling us to go anywhere; the Web enables us to NOT HAVE TO go to any particular place. This has a huge impact on how and why people move themselves around.
- Experiences are no longer fleeting things with limited influence. We can look up things we used to know but have forgotten, find copies of things we read long ago, re-discover music based on a tiny snippet of remembered lyrics, etc. Far from being merely "more convenient," this fundamentally changes how the things we experience shape our lives thereafter.
In short, the Web has placed knowledge, markets, and communication into the hands of everyone in any place at any time of day.
The printing press led directly to the Reformation - a radically fundamental change in society.You're cherry-picking all the activities that you think haven't changed very much. After the invention of the printing press, people still worked and shopped the same as they always had, but like computers, the accessibility of printed literature by masses of people increased the ability of humans to access knowledge and to use their brains efficiently.
Dramatically faster & easier, as I said, but not essentially different.I can only tell you that, in my experience, computers radically changed the way I worked. Instead of having to search through dozens of books to find a particular quote, I could type a few words into a search engine and it would instantly search all recorded literature to find it. If I wanted to find something that I vaguely remembered having written before, I could search all my archived works, instead of having to search through dozens of file cabinets and hundreds of file folders.
The ability of humans to think creative, complex, imaginative thoughts is what sets us apart from lower animals. No change could be more fundamental or transformative than a change in our ability to think and to access knowledge efficiently.
Personally, I believe that ideas are powerful things, and that, over time, the best ideas prevail, so long as there is a free and open exchange of ideas. It sounds like you're suggesting that society would be better off if people only had access to the ideas that conform to your personal political ideology. I don't believe that's what you mean to say, but you're dancing awfully close to that line.The printing press led directly to the Reformation - a radically fundamental change in society.
Dramatically faster & easier, as I said, but not essentially different.
One possibly fundamental and, ironically, negative change that seems to be occurring is being seen in politics. The increasingly rigid ideological divisions in society are being fueled by the decline in newspapers with their inbuilt variety of opinions in favour of individually selected web info which by its very nature feeds the readers preconceptions. Or so it appears to me.
People go to websites they agree with for their news & op/ed info and are thus exposed less often to alternate opinions or views. It appears to be having the effect of hardening their views.
That isn't the first time the talking heads have been wrong, and it shows a lack of understanding on their part of the complexities of the matter. First, if you decide to sell your home and move to the suburbs, you can't just abandon your home. You have too much of your savings invested in it. You have to sell it. If you sell it, someone will buy it, and someone will live in it. Thus, you will still not have a net change in the number of residents in the city. Generally, it takes much longer for any change of that sort to have an appreciable effect. Moreover, one's ability to work at home is only one of an infinite variety of reasons why people choose to live in or out of the city. They might be interested in educational opportunities for their children, or accessibility to the arts, or job opportunities, or availability of shopping and services, or availability of public transportation, or less expensive housing, or a host of other reasons. Any notion that cities would shrink appreciably because of the internet is simplistic.I remember when the web first gained some traction, there was speculation that cities would shrink. As people became able to work from home they would move away from cities. THAT would have been a fundamental change, but it hasn't happened.
Quite the opposite - I referred to it as a negative. I think it gives people the easy opportunity to restrict their input to that which conforms to their ideology - a Very Bad Thing.Personally, I believe that ideas are powerful things, and that, over time, the best ideas prevail, so long as there is a free and open exchange of ideas. It sounds like you're suggesting that society would be better off if people only had access to the ideas that conform to your personal political ideology. I don't believe that's what you mean to say, but you're dancing awfully close to that line.
It is indeed a big forum and there is a preponderance of crap on it. Seems the essential difference between your perception of it and mine is that you see it as providing the opportunity to spread the crap while I have seen it as allowing people to narrow their range of input.Moreover, even though the internet has made a wider variety of political opinions more accessible, the internet hasn't changed basic human nature. Some people are only interested in opinions that conform to their own, and others are interested in hearing a wide variety of opposing opinions, so that they can pick and choose the opinions that are the most reasonable and compelling. The same people who were narrow-minded when reading newspapers are still narrow-minded when surfing the internet, and the same people who were interested in weighing both sides of each issue are just as open-minded in surfing the internet as they were prior to the advent of the internet. The internet hasn't made people any more or less narrow-minded than they ever were. I think the biggest difference that the internet has made in that regard is that it has provided the ideologues of the narrow-minded left and the narrow-minded right a forum where they can broadcast their narrow-minded views to others. In the past, the newspapers only had enough space to publish a sampling of letters-to-the-editor. Now, on the internet, anybody can post any opinion, however shallow or uninformed.