Top Ten Technological Advances of the Decade that Changed My Life
It is really hard to remember what life was like when 1999 turned into 2000. When I try to think back I realize that nearly everything thing in my life has changed. While I would like to take credit for all the changes, I cannot. Advances in technology allow me to do things today that I would have thought impossible ten years ago. Today my daily life is constantly being reshaped by what technology enables me to do. So I took a moment and thought about what technologies have changed my life the most. Here are the top ten. I put them in order even though it is very difficult to say which one is most important, because they are all interrelated.
If you are too lazy to read, I basically read the post out loud in this youtube video.
10. GPS in our Pockets
When I drove around the country in 2001 I bought a great National Geographic Atlas of the United States. I would use it to find obscure roads, to orient myself when lost, and to locate places to camp. Today if I made the same trip the atlas would stay in my trunk as back up. My last two cellphones have had the ability to connect to google maps which only went live in 2005. Today on my iPhone I can press a few buttons to know exactly where I am and how to get directly to my destination. This allows me walk out the door without knowing where I am going and get there without getting lost.
9. Democratization of Information
When wikipedia launched in 2001 I thought it was a joke. I laughed about the misinformation it would spread, and I was not allowed to site in my college papers. Today I find myself looking at it nearly every day. I even update it sometimes. Though wikipedia is the flagship of information democratization, it is only one player among many. I check forums all the time to learn how to do things that stump me. The fact that google allows me to search for the most obscure reference lets me find what other people already know. I am doing multiple searches for every entry I am writing right now. Though some people still question the integrity of online democratic information, there are still plenty of textbooks that claim Christopher Columbus was a hero and not a Hitler. I think eventually democratic information compiling will lead to a more accurate understanding of the world.
8. Global Outsourcing
If you ever call customer service you have probably talked to someone in another country. This effects us in three enormous ways. First we lose jobs in wealthier countries. Second we lower the cost of everything from manufacturing to customer service, which translates directly to consumer saving. Third we make our country more reliant and connected to diverse people around the globe. In the end I think global outsourcing is making the world a much more equal place. It exposes call operators in poor nations to the norms, values, and laws wealthy nations . It reminds people in developed countries that less developed nations control our fate as much as we control theirs, which is a good thing.
7. Networked Gaming
Sure there have been networked games since Empire in 1973, but most people really hadn’t been exposed to them until this decade. There were plenty of networked games that came out in the 1990’s like Ultima Online, Everquest, Warcraft, Command and Conquer, but today almost all new games have some networked capability. The huge difference between classical computer games and networked games are the other players. Fighting with or against another human, even if they are on the other side of the planet, makes gaming much more enthralling. Today most console games, computer games, and even many phone games allow you to play with friends. Games have sprung up across social networks as well. This trend will continue until it will be hard to imagine games that don’t let you play with your friends. Whether it is Farmville, World of Warcraft, or Online Poker, there is a networked game for you to play with your friends.
6. Mass Acceptance of Cellphones
In 1997 there were 18 mobile phones for every 100 people in developed countries. By 2007 there were 97 mobile phones per 100 people. After resisting for the first few years of college I got my first phone in 2001. Today I think it is weird for someone to have a land line. Though there are some hold outs, like my father, almost everyone I know has one. Having the ability to stay in contact on the run profoundly changes the way we make plans, what we considered timely arrival, and how we have conversations. Lest I forget how much texting changes the way I communicate. It is truly hard to remember what it was like to wait by the phone for someone to call. But I certainly spent a good amount of time in childhood doing just that.
5. Digital Still and Video Cameras
When I started film school in 1999 the best digital camera on the market was one mega pixel and therefore no competition to film. Photography was still taught exclusively on film. Today it would be a crime to teach the same way. Almost every cell phone has a still camera if not a movie camera. This allows each and everyone of us to capture our lives, world events, and the comedic moments of others. If a picture tells a thousand words, then the millions of picture being taken today speak volumes. This technology turns us all into photographers and filmmakers. It lowers the cost of artistic creation to almost zero. One day it will spawn photo and video Mozarts and Beethovens that we cannot imagine today.
4. Internet Purchasing
Amazon had $1.6 billion in revenue in the year 1999. It had $19.2 billion in revenue last year. In 2001 online retail generated $31 billion. By 2008 the number was $204 billion. The way we buy and sell things has forever changed. This drives the cost of things down. It allows anyone to sell nearly anything to nearly anywhere. It used to be if I wanted something I went store to store looking for a deal. Now I barely ever go to a store, and if I do I am price checking everything over the internet on my phone. While there is still a place for store fronts, I have to wonder how much longer before they will be obsolete. Don’t forget basically no one buys music from anywhere besides iTunes.
3. Online Video Streaming
When surfing for porn in 2000 I would never click on video links for fear of crashing my computer and messing up my rhythm. It was still photos only. Today I am not ever sure a photo could get me excited, because I have been desensitized by the copious amounts of free streaming dirty video. Youtube was only founded in 2005, but today it gets the 4th most traffic in the world. It has allowed any one and their grandmother the ability to broadcast whatever they want to the world. Combined with cheap digital video cameras this site will forever change the way we make and view video. The bar for broadcast has essentially been lowered to zero. Hulu, ninjavideo, uStream, and Netflix are opening the gates to a TV free world. I know many people who have stopped getting cable, because they watch everything over the internet. If TV in the classical sense is still around in ten years I will be shocked.
2. Social Networks
Friendster was only born in 2002. Myspace was born in 2003. Facebook was born in 2004. Today FB has more than 350 million active users, or more people than live in the USA. Though FB I invite people to parties, reconnect with old friends, research business contacts, stalk old girlfriends, and so much more. I check it every day when I wake up and take a dump. I check it when ever I am getting slighly bored from my work. I just checked it. I joined with much skepticism in 2008, but I have to admit FB shapes every day of my life when I am in range of the internet. There is no going back.
1. Pocket Sized Networked Computers
This picture is a side by side comparison of the top of the line laptop I bought in 1999 with my iPhone which I got in 2008. I decided to compare the tech specs of both machines only to discover that the iPhone is about twice as fast. To be specific the thinkpad has a 333mhz processor, 128 MB ram, and 6.4 GB hard drive. The iPhone today has a 620MHz processor, 256 MB ram, and 16GB hard drive. The iPhone has network connectivity nearly everywhere, a longer battery life, its a cell phone, and IT FITS IN MY POCKET. The iPhone cost $200 while the laptop cost $1900. If I could tell my twelve year old self this was possible, he would have replied, “yeah?, and there are hoverboards in Japan.” This advance gets top spot, because it gives me access to all of the others whenever I decide to wear pants, shorts, or anything with pockets.
Where will we be in 10 years? Provided we survive 2012, who knows. But I didn’t imagine any of these being possible ten years ago. So the sky is the limit. I predict self driving cars, quarter size cellphone computers, and AI personal assistants. What do you think we will be capable of in ten years? And what technologies have changed your life the most?