The mariner was motivated to opine the effect of telecommunication on our cultural environment. The assumption is that the telegraph and its telephonic advances permit us to have personal interaction among many cultural environments instead of just one comprised of our geographic home base, that is, our town, neighborhood, trade, and family.
The smart phone is part of a different technology requiring huge inventories of collected information – information about everything and everyone everywhere around the world, past, present and future. There is mundane detail about history, culture and the mechanistic information derived from millions of advances in science, technology and computing; each of our personal lives has been recorded into this unimaginable library as well. The change agent is that, in principle, all knowledge is accessible to all persons – instantly. What rituals change when knowledge no longer resides only in books or lectures or personal experience?
Public education is experimenting with empirical teaching. A student no longer needs to memorize traditional information from books. Further, to keep up with cultural values, a student must learn at the speed of using the information while actually performing the behavior that requires it.
Culture is still reacting to “free knowledge.” Day-to-day behavior still rests on activities that require humans to travel about as they accomplish their daily pursuits. Examples where cultural change already is noticeable are shopping, working, education, entertainment and news, geographic information about other individuals and objects, and collectively what an individual does each hour of an average day – the giveaway is the term ‘online.’ It isn’t ironing and patching socks – how we passed time before electricity and computers.
The two technologies, telephony and data libraries (called ‘clouds’ under certain configurations) have merged to provide a use for the smart phone. Imagine a multidimensional telephone network that doesn’t need wires; call it the Internet. Imagine a global wireless network where everyone has a telephone number called an email address and/or a presence on the wireless network itself called a website. There is a reason so many individuals are drawn into almost continuous focus on the smart phone while walking, communicating, researching, playing games, purchasing or even connected to several other users at the same time.
The smart phone is the device with which we will change the meaning of privacy; the smart phone is the device through which we will allocate many decisions about our daily life to what free information tells us to do; the smart phone is the device with which medicine will know everything about us from that seasonal sneeze to our genome.
Technology already is advancing much faster than culture can. It will be natural for economic and political forces to leverage technology before culture has established acceptable moral rules encoded to balance our free information environment
The next two generations will struggle to survive in a new world that essentially has no roots in the cultures of past centuries. The third generation will be the proof in the pudding: Will culture have been responsive enough to survive in a viable, satisfactory state for humankind?