Saturday, May 18, 2013

How the Digital Age Is Changing Everything - Joe Vadalma

Joe Vadalma is the author of several major science fiction and fantasy series including his Chronicles of Morgaine the Witch, the Raven Lenore, Psychic Investigator, the Books of Retslu, and the norish Isaac, the Android saga.

When I first started reading science fiction, around the age of twelve, the world was a different place. A telephone was a black instrument chained to the wall by a cord. Books had hard covers. Computers were a gleam in some scientist's eye. Even science fiction was packaged in 8 ½ by 11 magazines printed on blotting paper with garish covers on them. Getting to the moon was an impossible dream. The only people you considered your friends lived in your neighborhood, and you corresponding with people by writing a letter on paper and mailing it. Only a few people had TV sets and the shows were in black and white. Even the science-fiction writers I read could not guess the changes that would occur in the twenty-first century.

Of all the changes that have occurred since then, none changed our way of life more profoundly than the home computer and the internet. And the changes are accelerating. Who would've ever believed that one could carry around a powerful computer in your pocket? That people would read books on devices that would threaten the print book industry? And who would believe that you could get information on any subject simply by typing in the subject and clicking on an icon labeled Search? Or order any item at the lowest possible price simply by typing and clicking an the back of a gadget that looks like a bug or a mouse?

That people would be in constant touch with people they hardly know all over the world and get all the details of their lives? Or that people would spend hours in virtual worlds? Or that secrecy would come to an end where even the most repressive government cannot control what information their people receive or what secrets are revealed? Or that people would get in traffic accidents because they are typing messages while they drive? That I could talk to my daughter face-to-face even though she lives three thousand miles away? That a gadget in my car would give directions on how to go anywhere as I drive, telling me exactly when I need to turn as I approach the intersection?

And that is only the beginning of the changes that are occurring. Soon we'll have robot servants, driverless automobiles and the ability to speak to our computers instead of having to type or use a mouse. Just recently a video game allows a person to control the action by simply waving arms around. And what about the special effects in movies these days? And now 3D TV sets are available.

The digital age has ushered a new language as well. Here are few of the new words: LOL, FAQ, IM-ing, E-mailing, E-books, download, upload, web site, internet, web page, tweeting, unfriending, writing on a wall, Twitter, Facebook, Google and googling, and on and on.

It's hard to say what will be next. Today's world goes so far beyond the world of my youth that even the most imaginative SF writers of that time could not imagine it.

1 comment:

  1. And yet with all of this new technology, what have we used it for? Primarily to view extreme porn and to yak with each other about other people. There is still great sci-fi being written, but the dystopias outnumber and outsell the utopias. No one appears to be very optimistic that we will use all of this exciting new technology to expand the horizons of humanity. Instead we sit around like moody pre-teens staring into our own belly-buttons, wondering why we have to learn anything at all when everything is available on-line at the click of a search button.

    I spend a lot of time in high schools as a substitute teacher, and the students are technologically adept, true. They can run rings around any adults with their intuitive grasp of any new tech-toys that appear. But talk about expanding to other planets? Talk about engineering world peace? Talk about using the omni-present technology to improve the lot of people the world over? They look up from their I-phones, "Oh, are you still talking? I was texting." Sigh.