The myriad ways technology has accelerated the continued pace of life in the 21st century was the subject of a virtual presentation by the Ohio State University Center for Historical Research.
In the presentation, “Speed in the Internet Age”, Stephen Kern, Distinguished Professor of Humanities in the Department of History, outlined the pros and cons of 24-hour access to an unlimited supply of information at one’s fingertips.
One advantage is that technological advances enable people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to prepare for life-changing situations such as weather emergencies, Kern said.
“The ability to predict the future increases by one day in terms of predicting hurricanes every decade using computer models,” Kern said. “In 1920, he saw the Panchangs, which were just superstitions. You knew it was raining when your head was wet. He did not have this knowledge. We have this knowledge (right now), and anyone can have this knowledge. You know what’s going to happen – there’s a storm coming in three days.”
Kern said some human inventions have created a paradox: Technological advances have resulted in more accurate weather predictions, but the carbon footprint required to manufacture and power certain types of technology can have harmful effects on the environment.
“Technology creates all kinds of environmental problems,” he said, “and they’re also making it possible to manage them.”
Kern said another advantage of the advanced technology is the ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions earlier and more effectively, especially rare diseases such as Tay-Sachs and Huntington’s.
“We didn’t know much about him (in the last decades). Now there are some tests that we have with these diseases,” he said. “The rich and the poor have access to it. It’s a good thing.”
In a question-and-answer session following Kern’s presentation, one participant explained that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the boom in people working remotely resulted in a greater reliance on technology to conduct business and gather information. Research materials that previously could only be obtained by visiting a library’s brick-and-mortar location have been digitized and made available online – increasing access for persons with special disabilities.
“Technology has opened things up,” Kern said.
Kern said the pandemic also emphasized the importance of technology in staying connected to co-workers, friends and family who live far away.
Before the Internet, “You said goodbye to your son or daughter. They got on a ship to go somewhere, went to Australia or somewhere far away from the United States, you never heard from them,” he said. “To do without all these things Would be unbearable for us – have a baby gone and you can’t talk to them, you don’t hear from them until next year, let alone get a message from them, let alone know they’ve got it. ,
The discussion also discussed the digital divide between generations. One participant said she noticed that many young people are used to being constantly connected to smartphones, tablets and laptops, while some older adults prefer to disconnect from technology and interact face-to-face.
Kern notes that adults of all ages express a reluctance to return to a simpler way of life and abandon modern conveniences.
“Nobody wants a slow computer. Nobody wants a dial-up computer. We want (Internet access) now,” Kern said. “It’s transformative, but who doesn’t want to?”
The participants also discussed how round-the-clock connectivity can lead to a growing intolerance to handle information overload and downtime without a handheld device.
“There are all kinds of wheels and quadrilaterals going on at the same time and a lot of things happening at once,” Kern said. “Is this good or bad or is it going to get worse? I don’t know. It’s hard to keep up.”
Source: Ohio State University