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Friday, July 29, 2011

The History of Technology and Communication - the Future

So, what does the future of communication hold? The way that human brains work is that the more we do something, the more our brains are shaped to do things that way. It's called plasticity. Every action we take sends impulses along a neural pathway. The more times we do the same thing, the wider that pathway gets, until our brains default to sending impulses along a huge highway. This is similar to developing muscle memory from riding a bicycle - you never forget.

The more human communication is shaped by electronic media and the internet, the more our brains will function in that way. We will stop storing as many facts because we can easily find them online. We will seek filters, both relational and technological to weed out the bad sources of information and direct us to the good sources of information. We will see things as interconnected and relational rather than logical and linear.

And that will change everything. It took about one hundred years for the invention of the printing press to rearrange the brains of medieval Europe into the brains of Reformation and Renaissance Europe. The speed at which the internet as been adopted and spread around the world has drastically foreshortened the time that it will take to change everything again.

A few of the changes that are starting now are:

  • Authority does not equal power or leadership. A look at the 2008 election will show that the majority of people who voted for Barack Obama were younger, internet connected people. One of his main campaign strategies was to connect with people through the internet. His message during the campaign was one of challenging the establishment and speaking for the people. He developed a relationship with people through social media and provided leadership based on an emotional appeal.
  • Facts are decreasing in importance. In a world where a Google search can bring any bit of information at any time, knowledge of facts is not very important. They are cheap. Disposable. The ubiquity of knowledge makes it mundane and the mundane is ignored then forgotten. But connecting facts into new ideas is hugely important. Being able to discern which facts are valuable and which can be tossed into the growing heap is the skill of the future. Schools used to teach the memorization of facts, in the future they will need to teach the processing and creation of ideas.
  • Relationships are getting cheaper. It used to cost to maintain relationships. It took time and effort to remain connected with people. Especially when people where far away, it would take calls and letters to stay in touch. But with the internet and social networking, a few hours allows you to re-connect with all of your acquaintances around the world. You can keep in touch with hundreds of people. But the quality of the relationship suffers. There's no real connection. The term "Facebook friend" carries the connotation of not a true friend, but someone worth keeping connected. If relationships are only dealt with through technology they begin to lose value. 
Everything will change. 

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