Whether you embrace technology
Or resist it,
Whether you love technology
Or hate it
You must admit that it has changed our world. Fundamentally, and permanently.
The job of the historian is to examine the past and identify those events, those moments, when something happened that changed the course of history. An event, perhaps. An invention. An idea whose time had come.
The invention of the personal computer certainly fits in this category but, in my humble opinion, the smart phone, and its widespread adoption across the planet, will end up outranking the PC.
Modern humans have inhabited Earth for roughly 100,000 years, gradually accumulating and preserving knowledge up to the present day. But it is only in the last 10 years or so that the entirety of this knowledge could be accessed from a device that could fit in your shirt pocket. One of the great libraries of antiquity, in Alexandria, Egypt, held roughly a half-million scrolls. This translates to roughly 65 gigabytes of actual data. Many cell phones can easily hold that amount without going online. Imagine that! An entire library in the palm of your hand.
Even if your phone is smaller capacity, with a data plan you suddenly have a capability that no generation before you ever had – the ability to access the sum of all human knowledge from anywhere, at any time. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg! A smart phone is more than a passive receiver of knowledge – it allows you to be an actual contributor via voice or text. I can post a restaurant review while canoeing down the Wapsi. I can edit a Wikipedia article in between rounds of golf. I can solve any argument instantly with a simple, fast Google search.
Some may struggle to find these new capabilities interesting or worthwhile. After all, it often takes history’s long view to finally settle on what’s significant and what isn’t. But if I was a betting man? My money’s on the smart phone!