Brave New (High-Tech) World

 


Whoa, there, donít go away, give me just one paragraph!

 

Personal Computers, Windows, Mouses, Laptops and Notebooks, Hardware and Software, Active Matrix, Modems, Wireless, WAP phones, Interactive, Office Suites, Word and Excel and Powerpoint, Databases, Desktop Publishing, Contact Management, Online, the Internet and the Web, Java Apps, E-mail, Netiquette, MUDs and RPGs, Simulators, AOL, Netscape, Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms, ISPís, Kilobytes and Megabytes (and MegaHertz) and Gigabytes and Terabytes, Hard Drives, ZIP Drives, RAM and ROM, GPS devices, PIMs and PDAís, Palm Pilots, Digital Cameras, Digital Picture Frames, MP3, Napster, Rip and Burn, Intellectual Property, DVDís, E-books, Bio-Technology and Genetically-Modified foods, the Human Genome, AI, Robotics, The New Economy, E-Commerce, E-Business, The Matrix, free wireless world-wide communication, enough, enough, enough, this is for my grandchildren, not for me!OK.If youíre honestly convinced you canít learn what your 4 year old grandchild (or great grandchild) is learning,and using every day, then OK, maybe youíre right, your mind is not as agile as it once was.But why SHOULD I care?I donít need this stuff.Youíre right, you donít NEED this stuff, you led a perfectly fine life before this stuff came along.But the real reason to be curious about this new world is that it is real today and itíll be more real tomorrow, itís fascinating, and itíll grab and excite you at the same time that it terrifies and frustrates you. So, come along for the ride, I promise you youíll enjoy it.Or Iíll give you your time back.

Thatís the deal, youíve done your part, if you want to abandon ship -- and we will be making port all over the High-Tech world -- you can disembark now, with no prejudice.And the nice thing is, you can catch up later, no penalty for being hesitant now.

But back to our discussion.

But you know, this new high-falutin high-tech world is not all good, millions of people have been laid off because of it, hundreds of thousands have lost real money investing in high-tech stocks and dot coms, and the future does not look any better because of it.As a matter of fact, the future looks pretty scary and bleak if you ask me.

Youíre right.I totally agree.Already the foxes are loose in the hen-house with governmentís looking the other way.This high-tech world will be tragic unless we take control.Indeed, the most influential writings about high-tech are warning pieces which we will ignore at our peril.But you canít put the genie back in the bottle and every new technology has demanded we learn how to use it before it does us too much damage.We got burned harnessing fire.And I have the blisters to prove it, still.The understanding of the inside of the atomic nucleus scared some (of those smart enough to know what was coming) and killed tens of thousands of others, but we have learned to deal with it and itís been a long time since even the French tested an atomic bomb (yeah, Iíve heard of Chernobyl).And we will learn to deal with this new world, with its threats, or we will be the worse because of our ignorance and cowardice.

But the vocabulary; why does the high-tech world demand we learn its jargon, why does it make up so many words and ugly-sounding ones at that?

Well, some of the new vocabulary may be funny sounding and awkward.But every field of knowledge, new or old, academic or everyday, has its jargon.One may insist that jargon is a way that practitioners keep out others from its sacred halls.But jargon is any fieldís short-hand, it is the way that people in the field communicate without having to use kindergarten vocabulary.And if you give us, you and me, a chance, you will see how easy, and necessary, it all is.

So what are the pieces to this high-tech world.Give me a BRIEF overview.

The central idea of this revolution is computers for individual people.Micro-computers, PCís, call them whaty you will.The central technological innovation that fuels this revolution is the ďcomputer chip,Ē the tiny plastic and silicon centipede that Intel (among others, but youíve heard of them!) designs and manufactures.The star performer is the Microprocessor, the supporting actor is the Memory chip.They are called chips because if you threw a hundred of them into a snack bowl and stepped away, it would look like a bowl of over-cooked Fritos chips.These chips are the heart (well, the brains) of Personal Computers and all the other technologies I mentioned in my opening paragraph.

PCís have allowed large corporations to lay off millions of people in the last two decades and they have made staggering fortunes for a few (some have been directly responsible for those layoffs).As tools of Business, they may become a frightening attack on our livelihoods, our privacy and our very liberty.In OUR hands, they provide us with tools that allow us to work from home, from our favorite coffee-shoppe, or from our travel-destination of the month.They allow us to compete head-on with Mega-Corporations and to show Tyranny how powerless it is to silence us.They link us together, in ways we are only beginning to imagine.

Our choices, yours and mine and our childrenís, will re-shape our world after our vision, unless we refuse to see, then we get someone elseís vision.So come along, this is your world we will be examining and understanding.

created on 5/3/2001