How Technology Has Changed Our Lives in Just 10 Years

January 15, 2009

Q: How has technology changed in the past 10 years?

A: The biggest technology change of the last 10 years is the proliferation of the internet into mainstream society. It started with the widespread adoption of email. From that modest foothold, the internet grew to become what it is today: the de-facto medium for human communication.

Q: Why has it changed?

A: The internet is a better mousetrap. Before, we had snail mail, telephones, newspapers, encyclopedias, libraries, record albums, radio, television, and movie theaters. All were slow and cumbersome and controlled by a relative minority. The internet is fast, affordable, and widely available. What's more, it seems to facilitate some innate human desires to share, to be liked, and to be in control of our environment. The internet age is customizable, on-demand, instantaneous.

Q: Is it all good? Why or why not?

A: Everything is a tradeoff. The internet accelerates many aspects of life, and sometimes that can be a scary thing. However, the good outweighs the bad. Over time the global nature of the internet will help normalize the standard of living around the world. This might be unattractive to prosperous nations in the short term, but in the long term it is good for everyone.

Q: What will technology be like 10 years from now?

A: Ten years from now we'll be interacting with devices (and by extension, each other) using sophisticated I/O hardware that tracks our eye movements, senses the motion of our bodies, and possibly even reads our thoughts. It sounds like science fiction, but there are companies who are already competing in these areas.

In terms of output, I would not be the least bit surprised to see advances in sense areas that are currently ignored - i.e. taste, touch and smell.

It might be more than 10 years out, but when I can download a venti house blend from Starbucks.com, I'll know we're making real progress.

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