There is no doubt that technology changes the course of human evolution. It has done so since the advent of the first technology to change the course of human existence, whether that technology was fire or a sharpened stone.
By impact, the first real weapon of mass destruction was Gutenberg’s printing press. Institutions, governments, and religions were taken down and changed by movable type.
The second weapon of mass destruction was the atomic bomb. Much of the 20th Century was shaped by its existence, having been used only twice, and thankfully, never used again.
The third weapon is the microchip. As machines allowed human beings to surpass the limitations of their backs and their hands, the microchip has enabled human beings to surpass the limitation of the substrate that is the human brain as it pertains to many things, some that were once unimaginable.
The fourth has been Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web. Once again governments, religions, and particularly the institutions of commerce have all been changed, some beyond recognition. The microchip and communication infrastructure enables the use of this technology, but it is what the technology is capable of that makes it transformative.
Every technology comes with a duality. Fire provides warmth and the ability to cook food. Uncontrolled, it consumes and destroys everything it touches. Machines enabled mass production and a greater quality of life for a greater number of people, while also replacing the agrarian way of life many preferred.
The technologies we enjoy now provide access to information, education, and entertainment, as well as communication platforms that are reshaping the global economy, and replacing—or reimagining—businesses, including manufacturing, retail, publishing, news media, publishing, music. These technologies are also displacing people from jobs and creating a technology gap, as we leave the Industrial Age and enter the Information Age (which we are just beginning).
The accelerating, disruptive, continuous change we are experiencing now is only going to accelerate, become more disruptive, and continue unabated. Throughout all of the human cultural evolution up to this point, however, we have remained human. The things that matter most, like deep trust, caring, and collaboration haven’t changed.
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Filed under: The Disruptive Age