From the traditional letter posted and delivered by a human being, to text messages and emails, technology has developed so rapidly that we now expect to be able to communicate with people instantly and get responses from them almost straightaway. Writing a letter on a piece of paper now seems like a waste of time, for most of us it now feels much more natural to send texts and emails, and paper has been relegated to the loftier areas of legal communication, billing and wedding invitations.
Living in a fast-paced world it is important that we keep up with these modern ways of communication. Keeping up has advantages: being able to communicate faster and with more people than ever before. But, I wonder if we can be better connected and more alone? Perhaps it sounds like a Luddite cliché to talk about technological progress in this way, but it feels like there is something qualitatively different to this second technological revolution. While the first one may have freed us from some of the toils of work, the second one seems to free us from more social relations than ever. A modern-day Adam Smith may well some day write a book called The Wealth of Individuals about how each of us is working in more in isolation and is becoming more productive, has more online friends, but to draw analogies to the first revolution, has less breadth and tends to over-specialize.
“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” – Adam Smith
I recently listened to a podcast that talked about how poorer people tend to spend more of their time with family and neighbours, whereas the wealthier of our society tend to spend time alone with high-tech gadgets (think Blu-ray players, game consoles and surround sound systems).