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How our lives are being transformed!

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Revolution is a word that we commonly use today as we speak glibly about the Education Revolution and the Wellness Revolution. I have long been exposed to the term ‘revolution’ because of my field of study and work. So, I am familiar with the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Cuban Revolution among others. In fact, there are often references to the American Revolution, but this is regarded more correctly as the War of American Independence. So, what constitutes a revolution? A revolution is a far- reaching or fundamental change. As described in some dictionaries, “a dramatic and wide reaching change.”{{more}}

We are, without necessarily being aware of it, involved in a genuine revolution, the ‘Communications Revolution’. Do many of us, older folks, ever sit back and think about how our lives are being transformed daily by the technology, impacting on the way we live, how we relate to people, our work, virtually everything? I remember my first encounter with the cell phone in England, some years ago. With this the Europeans were then ahead of the Americans. I had to take the ‘tube’ every morning, sometimes at about 6:30, depending on where I was going. I could not understand what people who had just left their homes had to talk about at that hour of the morning, because many were sitting or standing in the trains with their phones almost stuck to their ears.

We have come a long way since. The technology has literally transformed our lives. I am sure you meet persons who are never without a cell phone at their ears. What is there to talk about on the phone every minute of the day? What did they do before this? Ironically, it is destroying the art of conversation. Some of you, I am sure, would have seen photos with friends or family on an outing, all having phones glued to their ears, speaking, but not with one another. The person at the other end could easily be in any other part of the world. Some of you will remember the classic case of an individual standing in line at CIBC, which was then located opposite the entrance to ‘Public Works’. She took out her phone and dialled the number of a friend. The friend answered and asked where she was. She said I am in the line just a few persons behind you. Then the other famous one, which some people thought was actually a joke. A young man, who had gone to have a shower, realised that he did not have his towel with him. His immediate response was to phone members of his family who were in the adjoining living room to ask that they hand it to him. Notice that he forgot his towel, but not his phone. Incredible stuff!

But the impact goes beyond the cell phone. When last have you written and posted a letter? I went to the Post Office not too long ago to post a small package. There was a long line and I was furious, because I was already late for an engagement. After standing in line for five minutes it was brought to my attention that I was standing in the line for persons dealing with ‘Moneygram’. Actually there were three lines. The other was for persons paying utility bills. The line for persons requiring the traditional postal services was the shortest, with only three persons. Of course, there are still many persons who use the postal services for sending mail, but the numbers are dwindling. One can understand why the Postal Corporation had to diversify their services, but with others also offering those services, the future doesn’t look good for them.

I was involved in an interesting incident some years ago in Toronto that actually involved old technology. I had purchased something at a small store. After I had handed the money to the cashier, her machine went blank. I had only to get back about 80 cents from my purchase, so no problem, I thought. I would not have to wait until her problem was resolved. She panicked and asked for a calculator in order to attend to me, since she had already collected my money. She couldn’t decide on my change without the calculator. I quickly told her the amount, but she obviously didn’t believe me and I had to wait until a technician came and dealt with the matter. As a schoolboy, at a young age, I knew my ‘tables’ and could easily repeat up to 12-time tables. We, as students, could subtract and add without any problem; then calculators became common. I wasn’t comfortable with them at first and calculated from my head, or if the numbers were too big, with the use of pen and paper. Calculators are now so common that students are required to use them at school. So, there is no time to understand the basics of Arithmetic, because they start from a very young age.

There are so many other things one can talk about, especially about technology’s impact on education, health and work. Actually I was driven to write this article, because I have been without my IPAD now for over a day. I feel lost even though I had been rescued by my computer, but this meant going before a desk, rather than lying on my bed reading newspapers, journals and emails and catching up on the current discussion on Facebook. Have you ever found yourself wondering what you used to do before you had access to this technology? Think about this and you will realize how much your life has changed.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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