Life-changing inventions aren’t new. Digital communication is one of those inventions and our only choice now is to learn how to live with it and manage it.
Fire, the wheel, the concept of zero, writing and the printing press made human perceptions of the world and their positions in it completely different than before they were discovered or developed. Human culture changed in response.
The internal combustion engine changed the human perception of distance. Suddenly, humans could travel farther in an hour than a horse could take them in a day.
Electricity changed time. Activities for which people needed light no longer had to be done only during daylight hours. Seasons became pages on a calendar rather than determinants of what could be eaten or worn.
More recently, the Internet changed our perception of space and time. We can talk face to face with fellow employees in other countries as if they were across the desk. We can see them as more like us than when they were only pictures in magazines or discoveries of world explorers.
Tech data guru Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report, delivered in June at Code Conference 2019, noted that 51 percent of the world, 3.8 billion people, used the Internet last year. Smartphones are now so ubiquitous that sales are slowing because so many potential users already have one. The planet seems to have shrunk, but information worlds have exploded.
Rapid change can be unsettling. It’s hard to remember that the iPhone, the first smartphone, was released only 12 years ago. Today, new devices or new ways of doing things must be learned and then relearned constantly. Kindergarteners live in a far different reality than high school students.
To what, then, can we anchor ourselves? On this eve of the Fourth of July, we can still count on the Declaration of Independence. This document set a new understanding of how governments should interact with the governed. It’s what men and women fought to make real.
The declaration says governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. It says all humans have basic rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It says all humans are created equal.
More than flags, fireworks and patriotic songs, those are the anchoring values of the United States that Americans have found ways to apply through 243 years of change. They are values worth celebrating and fighting to preserve.
Happy Fourth, everyone.