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The Internet

The Digital Revolution - Living up to the Hype? 149

Logic Bomb writes "There is a short editorial [free reg. req.] over at the New York Times that talks about how the Digital Revolution really hasn't made as much of a difference in people's lives as some other developments in recent history - electricity, hot running water, medical progress, and others. The author, noted (and humorous!) economist Paul Krugman, thinks it's just not that much of a revolution yet. Does the Slashdot community agree? What possible future developments do people think must be made a reality before the Digital Revolution transforms human life as much as the Industrial Revolution?"
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The Digital Revolution - Living up to the Hype?

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  • The digital revolution isn't about making life physically easier. I'm thinking that'll be something like the robotic revolution? Or the nanotech revolution?

    Also known as the information revolution, this one is all about spreading information, enlightening people, and hopefully making the world a smarter, more informed, and informationally free place to live.
  • by Bowie J. Poag ( 16898 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @07:33AM (#994472) Homepage


    ...I think this guy has got it wrong. The "digital revolution" (if you even wanna call it that) hasn't been around long enough to really have a an accurate assessment of its impact on things. Most people in this country didn't even fathom the idea of using a computer for day-to-day things up until just a few years ago. Like hot water, indoor plumbing an electricity, digital technology will become less of a novelty and more of a necessity as time goes on.

    Want proof? Ok, take television for example. The technology has been around since the late 1920's, but its impact as a medium wasn't really felt until the mid 1960's. Take radio. Its been around since 1910 or so, but its impact as a medium wasn't felt until the 1940's and 50's.

    We've got along way to go with this..Things are just getting started. To say something like the digital revolution hasn't had any impact is fairly short-sighted..Its too early to judge the big picture. Here we have a technology that has the capability to collectively educate millions of people, keep everyone in touch worldwide and beyond, and allow us to work more wisely & efficiently as a species. To say that this sort of thing wont have an impact down the line is like saying the Gutenberg press was only good for smashing grapes.

    My $0.02,

    Bowie J. Poag
  • Yeah, right. As email did not change lives... Or chats room where lonely people can find their soul mates. And does Napster did not change the lifes of all the music lovers... Or having news at the fingertips... In secondes after the "Findings of Fact" was released, everyone in the world was able to access to it. If this has not changed or life then I don't see anything able to change it in the near future.

    Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too"
  • "I know, I know... you meant A- T -Ms."

    No, I'm in Canada, and here we call them ABMs - Automated Banking Machines.

    Just be glad that I didn't write anything about cashing cheques!


    Mike van Lammeren
  • Have you ever seen yourself give a speech or even perform in everyday life? Have someone film you often enough so you forget about the camera and then review the tapes- it's very instructive.

    The point being that we often have little idea about our motivations or actions until we view them with both knowledge of our own beliefs and motivations and the ability to view our implementation of those forces from the viewpoint of a 3rd party.

    So, the effect of the "digital revolution" will be unapparent except in retorspect or thorough analysis. See the 1900 House [pbs.org]- I don't think the participants had any real appreciation for the effect modern life had upon their expectations and behaviour- neither do we.

    Give the "revolution" time- it will take at least a generation before we are affected and it's been less than 25 years (really). Actually, I could get along without central heating or a car easier than I could get along without my internet connection and computer. I call that an impact- even if I don't know it.

  • The digital revolution is, indeed, quite important, but the question is "is it as important (significant impact) as these others?" What if you were to measure "importance" by taking away whatever it is and seeing if you could live your life effectively (which does NOT mean happily. Could you do without a computer? Probably although, in today's world it would be extremely difficult. Without a digital watch? Yes. Without the Diamond Vision behind the bleachers at Fenway Park? Maybe, maybe not. But, then see if you could do without running water. I doubt it. Bathing in Perrier might be fun, but it's not really a solution in the long run. Without electricity? No. There aren't enough trees left to burn for heating and cooking. (If you think things are smoggy now, imagine what it would be like to return to coal fired furnaces and stoves.) Could you do without small pox vaccine, polio vaccine, or even aspirin? Absolutely not. So yes, the digital revoution is profoundly important, but not as much as some of these other things.
  • and where does happiness come in in your world?

    Not saying wether it is positive or negative, just that productivity isn't everything.

    - Steeltoe
  • I agree that if the information revolution has now happened it ain't all of that, but what if it's just starting?

    For good or ill, in a few decades, virtually everyone may be connected all the time. Then it will be time to compare
  • not everyone see's the Matrix like reality that the future will bring. I'm thinking that I would have gone mad years ago without my digital toys, a machine that I could shape into whatever form i saw fit, like legos of the make believe mind. if you ever talked to a regular citizen of the world about a big computer prodject you were working on they would kinna smile and nod, not knowing what you were talking about. and it's not their fault. computers are to complex for any one person to fully understand. and untill they are simple to use, and i mean SIMPLE, everyone else is going to miss out. so, in conclusion...

    The digital age will not be untill the geeks find a way to get everyone involved.

    Imagine the effeciency and proper spelling! This new machine cannot be built upon political, economic, or business models (BECAUSE THEY DON"T WORK)

    . .. Stop The Insanity.. . Think about it
    L8r
    Dolio
  • . . .the Digital Revolution Has Changed Things: 10. Better porn (just to get it out of the way) 9. Spending an inordinate amount of time staring blankly at a computer screen cutting into time spent staring blankly at a TV screen. 8. Having your cel phone ring while you are on the toilet. (Bonus points if you answer it) 7. The scary guy in the black suit driving the ice cream truck with the large satelite dish on top is out of Bomb Pops. 6. For the first time in the history of humanity, children actually smarter than parents ("Ok Mom, you have to left click twice really fast on the file name" "My left or your left?") 5. Cookies aren't just for the cookie jar anymore. 4. ATM's replacing humans in the important job of laughing at you when you try to take money out of an overdrawn account. 3. AOL chat rooms helping child molesters find their target audience much easier. 2. Way too many fuckin' bookmarks to sift through. . . .and the number one way the digital revolution has changed things. . . Tech IPO's creating lots of 20-year-old millionaires!
  • ...I sometimes think that with all the "we're changing the world" talk we forget to appreciate the little things.

    I spent last new year's eve at Uluru (aka "Ayer's Rock", in outback Australia). Against much sensible and well meaning advice, I took my PII-400 laptop with me.

    While we were camped there, we made a song with the assistance of about 35 people who had come to Uluru from all around the world. We had them say "happy new year" in their native language. It was an amazing gathering, very joyous. Perhaps it would have happened without the tech (the laptop, which did the recording and sequencing), but the follow-up wouldn't.

    We gave the URL of our website out to everyone there, and when we got home a couple of weeks later I mp3ed the song and uploaded it. We got mail from all around the world from people who had been there, and from people who hadn't (somehow!).

    You can hear the song for yourself [thehub.com.au]!

    This was, and is, amazing to me. All of this stuff is possible, technically, with analogue tech. But I don't fool myself that it would have happened without digital technology -- it certainly woudn't have happened anywhere near as quickly or spontaneously.

    !!!

    grib.

  • Yeah, you're right. Though I still think indoor plumbing is a bigger deal.
  • Soon there will be glasses that use a computer program so you can see what a person looks like without their clothes. Ironically, this will make clothing obsolete since the same technology can be used to digitally put clothes onto a naked person.

    The clothing companies are going to get upset about this, and you'll see the Gap et al. suing this and that company to try and stop our liberation from the opressive fasion police state that we're now stuck in.

    You might be required to wear a blue suit so that the sensors on other people's glasses can image you well as a template for whatever settings the people around you choose (street clothes, colonial period, Renaissance, or just naked).

    This same concept will cure the problem of ugliness, giving you new measurements and a new face. You will set user preferences in two categories - 1. how you want to see other people 2. how you want other people to see you.

    That's as frank as I can be about the issue.
  • The lack of a 4 day workweek is a result of the political and economic systems you are working in.

    The particiular form of capitolism used the USA and many other parts of the world today tends to optimise for the wealth of corporate shareholders, not the shortest work week for average workers.

    The high taxes and low efficiency of usage in the USA just compound this problem. If there were no income tax and no social security collection, that would straight out allow a 3 or 4 day work week, because everyone would just have more money.

  • The problem isn't that the digital revolution isn't that great, it's that genuine revolutions take a lot longer than most people appreciate. It's easy to look at how much difference things like electricity and running water make in our lives and describe them as revolutionary, but they probably seemed pretty weak to the people who experienced the change. That's because it took a long time for the real imact to be felt.

    Take cars as an example. The first primitive automobiles were built in the late 19th century, but didn't have much impact because they were just rich mens' playthings. It wasn't until the 1920's that even the most forward thinking communities really started planning themselves around the revolutionary changes in lifestyle that the automobile made possible, and most cities didn't really start to reorganize until after WWII. That's something like 70 years between first invention and really dramatic public impact.

    The same thing is true of just about every big invention/discovery. It took 40+ years between Relativity and its first practical application (unfortunately a nasty one). It's almost 50 years since the structure of DNA was discovered, and the big changes that's going to bring us are clearly still in the future. It shouldn't be surprising that nearly 60 years after the first computer we're still not really fully into the computer age.

    That being said, I think that it's easy to underestimate the importance of computers, particularly for older people who didn't grow up with them. People in the Slashdot generation, though, use computers very differently from the older generation, and they play a much bigger role in our lives. Why? Because we grew up with them and the radical things that they can do. That's the way it is with a lot of revolutions; the older generation never fully adopts the changes, and it isn't until they die off that the full impact is felt.

  • Electricity, of course, is a bigger deal and always will be. Phones and the other stuff can't be as big as electricity. Think about it: You can buy pure energy, and direct it into any amount of force. How can anything compete with that?

    Besides, electricity took a little while, too. You had lights and then radio, but the electric appliance revolution didn't really pick up until after WWII.

    T.Hobbes is right, digital stuff only adds functionality to electricity and phones. For now, the rest of us are just early adopters, but once the appliance flood starts...

    So the Times can check back in another 50-75 years to see if digitization's had a big enough effect on society for them.

    -jpowers
  • Re: What's more, the marketplace is now so ultra-competitive that no money in a business can possibly be wasted. In the 70s and early 80s, businesses were full of fat. Projects went nowhere. People made money for doing nothing. When that happens today, there's more likely to be real consequences, IMO. I like that; it means that bad management is punished and ludicrous waste is avoided. Usually.

    I'm reminded of the superbowl this past january in which a lot of internet companies took out add time and blew millions showing off how much venture capitol they could blow. On the issue of people making money for doing nothing, I would direct your attention to Jeff Bezos and Amazon who make money (through a blind stockmarket) for doing nothing (they have yet to turn a profit). There is just as much ludicrous waste in todays tech sector as companies box out for a leadership position in their perspective markets. The leading question is, do you work for one of them?
    ___

  • After a few years? Computer technology is just a basic building block like everything else. How long did it take to build 30 floor buildings after the first brick was invented? TTT (TTVLT)
  • Let's see, a few quick word substitutions, and the article read like this:

    The recent invention of the mammal is trivial compared to other recent innovations, such as tricerotops, stegasaurus, and of course, tyranosaurus rex...

    *sigh*

    Ever notice that historians loath to talk about the present or recent history? There's a reason for that...

    The problem is that inventions are almost never created fully realized. Usually invididual parts with limited utility are created seperately; their impact isn't realized until someone later puts them together in just the right way to make a transforming invention. And of course, there are social or business issues that are independent of the technology. I'm thinking here of the car, which was a toy for the rich until Ford found a way to sell them to the mass public.

    It's a little soon to be writing the obituary of this Internet.

  • I guess Paul Krugman is taking a break from writing about something he knows little about --- like working for a living. In case you don't know, Krugman likes to write about how good it is when other people's labor is exploited. He has a webpage -- check it out. If Krugman wants to see the already-massive effects of the coming information economy, he can take a stroll through the midwest and look at the unemployment and baby boomer crisis occuring from the loss of steel and auto manufacturing. But Krugman is far too busy writing capitalist masturbation.
  • "Then I realized I was reading the NY Times, for free. I've never bought a copy of the NY Times, and yet, because of the Internet, I can read it."

    And perhaps even on the other side of the world. And perhaps even before someone in New York has had a chance to read their dead tree edition.
  • if you expect a new development to change the world, you'll inevitably be dissapointed. if, rather, you understand that each new development has its place, then you can see the value of its impact. The telephone had an impact, but it didn't change every aspect of everyone's life; the same goes for the digital revolution. It has allowed the transfer of information to proceed at rates unheard of before, but that's all it is: the transfer of information. By itself, its impact is limited; in conjunction with other elements of society, its impact is much larger, as it adds to the utility and effectiveness of existing technologies.

    .. at least that's what i think!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, 2000 @06:59AM (#994493)
    In the 70s, it was predicted that with all the modern "tools" that were coming out, that we would have more time on our hands and would only have to work a 4 day work week.

    Surprise, I'm working even more.. So much for computers and technology making life easier for us.

    We do seem to have more time to post comments to slashdot though, maybe its not so bad after all...

  • The problem with responses like this one - though they're intelligently written - is that they totally miss the big picture. Think about it a little...before the industrial revolution, most people were farmers. A few lived in towns and, say, ran a general store, but not many. Then comes industrialization. Suddenly, there are cities everywhere. People spend their lives doing things that no one had ever dreamed of before - working in gigantic factories, assemblying machinery. Things people use every day, like clothing, can suddenly be produced at astonishing rates. Now that is a transformation for humanity.

    As this post pointed out, thanks to computers and the internet that industrial life is speeding up. But have things changed on the same scale as when we industrialized? Neither I nor Paul Krugman are saying the digital world isn't different. But we still live in downtown high-rises or white two-stories in suburbs just like we did 20 years ago. We still go to the local grocery store or mall when we need things - mostly the same things we needed 20 years ago. Even more importantly, most of the social problems we face are the same as 20 years ago as well.

    Those of us rich enough to reap the benefits can see a difference in our lives, but for the vast majority of humanity the digital age hasn't changed a thing (think Africa, India, and China...that's half the world's population right there). Industrialization did.

  • To bypass the "free registration required" BS on any NYT article, just replace the "www" in the URL by "partners": like this [nytimes.com]. Good readin'!

    (No, it's not "Redundant". You may already know about this; some don't. It's useful nonetheless.)
  • I wasn't around for any of the others.
  • Medical progress is an aggregate of "mini revolutions" that fall into one broad category.

    Two examples:
    Deficiency theory: Until deficiency theory came along, people assumed that afflictions like pallegra and scurvey were caused by posisons. The most notable was the B1 deficiency that swept Germany shortly after corn became the almost sole food for the peasant classes (without treatment, B1 in corn is unusable). The powers-that-be assumed that the corn was somehow poisonous and responded to the outbreak by burning all the crops in the field. Starvation ensued. 200 years later, deficiency theory is developed and the idealized notion of what constituted healthy eating habits changed instantaneously (the actual habits, for economic reasons, was much slower in changing)

    Germ theory: What the hell causes disease. Bad vapours? God? Before germ theory the whole notion of sanitization as being a Good Thing was unknown. Surgery (such as it was) would be performed without even a preliminary handwashing by the barber (a proto-surgeon/dentist, demoted over the course of several centuries to a lowly hair cutter). Germ theory developed, baths taken, millions saved. Pretty much over night.

    Medical progress is first and foremost a history of revolutions in thinking

  • The digital revolution hasn't meant shit to my grandpa. Except for TV he hasn't touched andything electronic that has been made in the last 50 years or so.
    Rock 'n Roll, Not Pop 'n Soul
  • Hi!

    It must be a slow news day at the New York Times....

    This editorial is asking and answering a simple, but stupid, question: is the "digital revolution" as significant as electricity? Or the internal combustion engine? Or modern medicine?

    Well, gosh, no. Except....

    There is absolutely nothing technologically significant about the internal combustion engine. It is the product of relatively low-precision machine work with an astonishingly small degree of innovation from year to year. There is a LOT that is technologically significant about how the internal is USED, however. Electricity--it was a curiosity in the 18th century that was celebrated by "philosophical gentlemen" who usually died trying to play with it. It was technologically meaningless, UNTIL it was put to use.

    In the 15th century a group of Germans achieved an astonishing technological breakthrough: they were able to machine wooden (and later metal) parts to tolerances of less than 1/1000 of an inch. A big deal? Yes! Nobody--anywhere in the world--could achieve that precision. But was it a technological breakthrough?

    The Reformation didn't happen because a bunch of Germans developed precision measurement and machining. It happened because those Germans were led by Johannes Gutenberg, and what they were machining was moveable type. What they created is still the most significant technological advancement in the history of the world.

    So how does the Digital Revolution stack up? We're WAY too quick to be judging. The revolution is only just starting, and it will be decades before we fully understand just how far-reaching it will become. Just as a f'rinstance, consider this: the Chinese student uprising in 1989 was largely driven by the fax machine. Consider the impact of email, especially with strong encryption, on repressive governments everywhere. It is entirely possible that we will witness dramatic political changes around the world in the next decades due to the "digital revolution." That may be good (like the Soviets, the empire collapses peacefully) or bad ( like the Yugoslavs, the old order dies in flames). But either way, the impact of something as low-tech as email, coupled with something as "digital" as strong encryption, will be substantial.
  • will make possible many new advances in human life. as we saw in tne new york time article last week, it will (and already has) spawn new progress in the medical fields, increase productivity, and, as we are already witnessing, let people tens of thousands of miles away talk with each other, having a worldwide combining effect on culture as television did in the u.s. when it first came out.

    perhaps the most important (or significant) advance will be in convenience. think how your daily life would be without electronics. not very fun, eh? and to compare the digital revolution to others isn't right, the industrial revolution took many decades, we're just starting the digital revolution, there is much to come. go back 50 years, and see how far we've come. it is big indeed

  • The industrial age changed where people lived... made them move from farms to the city. Plumbing na dthe rest made living easier in the cities.

    In contrast, the internet has only made exchanging money easier. It hasn't forced huge segments of the population to move or change their way of living.

    And as for free speach... ham radio existed DECADES before the internet, and provided a way for people to exchange forbidden ideas, even if it wasn't porn.

  • For those of you who are like me and are sick and
    tired of sites like nytimes requiring us to "sign up"
    with a login name and passwd and email address and real address and...

    I have created an account on nytimes for everyone
    to use. Username: slashdottt, passwd: slashdot

    Hopefully someone will find this usefull.
  • If there were no income tax and no social security collection, that would straight out allow a 3 or 4 day work week, because everyone would just have more money.

    No, everyone would still work 5 day weeks, because they would want more money. Everyone already can work 4 days for the most part, except people like high living standards more. Look at how many parents sacrifice their children by working two jobs rather than just cutting back their lifestyle.

    Granted, I think taxes are too high, but that's not the only reason.

    And it has nothing to do with "corporate shareholders", considering that people work far harder in small companies with way fewer benefits than in large companies.

    To tell you the truth, I think workers are unbelievable spoiled as it is compared to 100 years ago. 40 hours a week, out of 168? That's a vacation to those of us who have small companies.


    --

  • ...is that the 'Digital Revolution' should really be called the 'Efficiency Revolution'.

    Let us consider the inventions he mentions as significant. Electricity, internal combustion engine, chemistry, mass media, plumbing. Without CAD, without JIT distribution networks, without instant communication, without molecular modelling, how far and how fast would any of these have developed and actually have been brought to the people? (Note that about a third of the world's population still does not have *either* running water or electricity on demand.)

    The real digital 'revolution' is simply efficiency. We communicate faster, we calculate faster, we model consequences better, we design more quickly, we use less people to perform a given job. Thus the effects of the digital revolution are not anything attributable to a specific technology, they are simply that everything ELSE gets better faster than it would have otherwise.
  • _that would straight out allow a 3 or 4 day work week, because everyone would just have more money.

    Unfortunately it wouldn't happen. I could easily live on 80% of my current salary, but nobody is going to employ me for a 4 day week. A lot more people would just find that other people can suddenly work for less money, and so they would have to take a pay cut to compete.
  • This guy is a complete idiot. Its preposterous to think that computers haven't drastically changed our lives. Think of two things. First, the great effect that computers and technology have had on our armed forces. The United States is definitely the bully on the block when it comes to the earth, and we wouldn't be there without "the digital revolution." And in turn, a lot of that technology wouldn't have developed if it weren't for our capitalist economy. We wouldn't be able to support the consumer culture we have become if it wasn't for the computers that keep tabs on all of us. For so many people to be purchasing so much and keeping track of it all, it takes a tremendous ammount of computing and networking power. I wonder how much bandwidth banks use updating accounts for our purchases. Think of all the people in the check out line swiping their cards through readers, and everyone at an ATM. *grin* Beyond that, on a personal and smaller scale, it is a slow change over, but none the less one can see the direction we are going trying to go in. It's making us stay inside more, and get lazier. Fast food sales are on the rise nationwide, as are the ammount we drive, instead of walking around and enjoying our world. Computers just play a part in this. Now to shop for a new couch we don't even have to leave our little cave. Sure, seeing a picture of it isn't the same as going to a store, but before long, I'm sure we'll have our entire house scanned into a 3d model, and we can download a 3d model of the couch and move it around inside, make sure it fits ok, load up our 3d glasses and even see what our house looks like when sitting down on the couch. With the advent of Music over the internet, we don't have to go anywhere to buy a cd or record, or even listen to a live show. We can just sit at home on our ass all day if we want. More and more companies are allowing people to telecommute for more and more types of jobs. If we're feeling lonely and depressed and don't have any friends, even an idiot can get on ICQ or AIM and find someone random to talk to. Pfft... anyway. [; --tom
  • Perhaps the best measure of a technological break-through's impact is through an examination of its effect on society.

    The printing press broke the information monopoly owned by the Church and helped encourage independent thought and analysis among the masses.

    Agricultural mechanization (cotton gin and all) allowed for the modern, urban lifestyle as it freed people from agriculutural labor and allowed them the luxury to pursue other fields

    Electricity along with the light bulb changed people's perception of a day ... 'night life' and 'night work' became a distinct reality

    These are just a few, rash examples. But what has been the impact of the 'Digital Revolution' ?

    I'm not sure ... people still seem to be like people before WWW. More than anything, the Internet has brought about more convenience and maybe created more communities (like Slashdot) ... but to me, so far, it looks like an extension of existing trends rather than the creation of new ones.

  • I would direct your attention to Jeff Bezos and Amazon who make money (through a blind stockmarket) for doing nothing (they have yet to turn a profit).

    Ah yes, the infamous Amazon myth. I got news for you, Amazon makes a lot of money. They also spend a lot of money building brand. Amazon could turn a profit anytime they want to.

    Their are a lot of Internet companies to criticize, but Amazon is not one of them. They are not wasteful.


    --

  • One of the big changes has been that productivity
    has become limited by people. Agrarian societies
    were limited by natural resources, no matter how
    many people or how much monentary capital you had
    you could not boost productivity. Here you were born to a job and you kept it for life.


    The Industrial age changed that dramtically, new
    technology allowed us to extract new ammount of resources through specialization. What was expensive was capital and orginization. Human being were really cheap.



    To press that point, durning the industrial revolution we had people that would use small children and women in coal mines, that everyone knew was leathal and did kill them off at young ages. In the US we had "Company Towns" where you earned your wages, rented your house, bought your food, all from the same source. In England you had the department stores that didn't pay you enough to live in London so they put you up in company dormatory and controlled what time you could come home and took over 12 hours of your day. And if you lost your job, you and your family were likely to starve. People used to line
    up for jobs, there were surplusses of people, because people were cheap.



    In the digital era, our limitiing factor for growth is human beings. Capital is cheap, natural resources are nearly irrelevent, but human beings are tough to get. Yes lots of us do work 12 hour days, but if we get fed up with it we have a job in less than two weeks. We get daily emails, telephone call, cold calls asking us to switch our job. We go the Movies and bombarded by advertisments asking us to go work for some company (at least at the Metreo in SF).



    Losing good employee's can destroy a company. Old
    military style managers are not just innefective they are a detriment to your company. As individuals we don't requires an extensive pension system, because we have a job market that won't stop. We can move anywhere in the United States and find work without a problem.



    Union have become mostly irrelevent becuase the demand is so high that and individual has bargening power with the employer.



    From an employment and labor point of view life has changed. I still think that the digital revolution really started in 1995. Yes the technology is much older, but it wasn't untill 1994-1995 that the internet finally became big. Also I believe it is no coincidence that this when productivity started rising in the US. Personal computers had been arround for 15 years and there was no improvment in worker productivity! Computers produced a competitive advantage because they allowed companies to respond faster but until 1995 the return on captital was no better than not having computers.


    With that said, we are only five years into the digital communications revolution, give it some time to produce your major social changes! Steam powered looms didn't change the world overnight!

  • From the agricultural revolution to the industrial revolution to the digital revolution, all have had profound effects on the lives of those alive when they happened. The *focus* of those effects has been different each time around. I don't think it is possible to say that the advances in information technologies are more or less important than indoor plumbing, or sliced bread, or the cotton gin. The digital revolution is still in the process of transforming our lives. It is changing the way goods are bought and sold, it is changing the ways we communicate with one another, and, perhaps most importantly, it is increasingly blurring the concepts of national boundaries, our ideas about property and ownership thereof (particularly "intellectual property"), and many other ideas that have remained largely unchanged for centuries. I'm as excited as the next guy about not having to crap in a hole in the ground, but let's not sell the digital revolution short. This is still only the beginning.
  • Look at the 40s and 50s. They had rooms full of *typists* for pete's sake. People whose only job was to type up what people wanted to communicate. Those jobs are now all gone, replaced with jobs that *must* be more productive. And the modern economy sucked in all the cheap labor from welfare reform *without* having those people sit in a room typing.

    those typists didn't just type, they knew how to compose business & personal letters, invoices and reports. corporations have the same people today, only instead of a typewriter, they're expected to be proficient in the use of the microsoft office suite -- as well as typing things for people, they compose spreadsheets, charts & graphs, and presentations. it's basically the same thing.

  • The general line of the posts is right in that the revolution is not in peoples' faces. The big thing the behind-the-scenes movement has produced is the credit card industry. Yes, Diner's Club started out before computers were commonplace, but the massive infiltration into the common person's life of widely available credit was driven by the advances in computer technology, both software and hardware. (For example, prior to modems being cheaply integrated into the card swiper, the retailer actually had to call into the clearance company and speak to a person in order to approve the sale, thus making the whole transaction a lot more expesive to transact, especially for the credit card companies.) And the easy credit has certainly driven the consumer culture, which definitely changed day to day lives.
  • In his "Cosmic Trigger" trilogy, Robert Anton Wilson discusses how info doubles with ever-increasing frequency, and that as more info is exchanged, more chaos occurs, and thus more change occurs. I don't know if any of this accelerated exchange of info will result in a higher literacy rate (speculation, anyone?), but if it does, then Buckminster Fuller would tell you that as a result, food production will increase...
    We may have no idea what we've begun...
  • I agree with what a few posters have said here already... sometimes it is difficult to see what the implications of your technological advances are. lamz brings up some very good points in his post, and these things are the very trivial minutiae of our everyday lives, other than the bank anecdote. We don't have to get up to change channels, whoopee doo we think. But the declining cost of technology means that there are also actually more than 5 channels on television like there would have been in say the mid-60's covering everything from a golf-only channel to up-to-the-minute stock reports.

    Also, he is overlooking the advances in many fields of human endeavor that have benefited from the reduced cost and improved performance of technology. The medical and engineering professions come to mind especially. Ask the small business owner who used to have to hire a full-time accountant to keep their accounts and payroll straight if it has made a difference to them. Now they can pay someone to come in for 4 hrs a week (my wife does this for several companies) and get everything printed out in color with charts and graphs to compare month to month stats versus a big book with columns of handwritten figures from the 1890's to early 1980's.

    Without tech advances we would never have cheap and fairly reliable airline travel and reservations, the Human Genome Project that promises so many advances in medicine etc. But the invention of the car didn't make much of an impact to most people when it first came out either. Not until Ford started the assembly line and cars became affordable for the average family who could now take a trip from Duluth to the Cali coast in relative style and comfort.

    One of the things holding us back is the insecurity of the digital age, identity theft and credit card abuses. I remember a poll that came out recently here in Canada (sorry I can't provide a link) that says the biggest thing holding back Canadians from purchasing online is the lack of security. When & if this changes I'll sure as hell buy a Palm and I'll keep a grocery list on it and add stuff to it throughout the week as it comes to me. One day a week I'll transfer my purchase request to the grocer and have it delivered. And when the Palm is old hat I'll talk into a wristwatch sized thingy on my arm that allows me to do that and more.

    Now where technology hasn't been as useful is getting us out of the political/economic consumer ratrace we're caught up in. I think that this revolution is coming, as the rise of ubiquitous instant global communications comes about. All real revolutions in the world have come about as a result of people getting together and communicating new ideas of how to organize and rule themselves, for better or worse. The Bolshevik revolution and the literary circles that Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway were part of come to mind as good examples here.

    Things were bleakest in France before the French revolution too, so maybe it's just a matter of time before we can really identify "SOMETHING BIG" about to happen as a result of technological changes. Things need time to ferment, and quite possibly things will have to get worse before we learn to use our advances in technology to liberate ourselves rather than enslave ourselves. I mean, when in history have geeks around the world been able to gather and shoot the shit like here on /.? Maybe OSS, the FSF and /. are a rivulet of a stream that is building and we don't even know it. It's a nice thought IMHO. Sorry for the long post, it's just something I've been doin some reflecting on recently.

  • Do you know what percentage of the fedral income tax revinue is used for "maintaining the country's infrastructure"?

    Do you know what portion of the infrastructure that the US fedral government supports is acutally worth supporting?

    To anyone:
    Name some piece of "nessisary infrastructure" that the fedral government actually supports with the income tax, and I'll give you $5 U.S. if I can't show that one of the following is true: (I'm poor or cheap, so I'll only pay the first person to come up with such an item.)

    1. It's unnessisary.
    2. It's not really supported by the income tax.
    3. It can and should be supported by some other means.
    4. It was supported by something else before the income tax was introduced, and can be supported by that again.

    As far as I can tell, the things actually supported by the income tax mostly involve subsidising stuff so that americans don't have to notice the realities of living in a capitolist economy.

    Social security is also a crock of shit. The chances of anyone who put money into it getting similar amounts of money back out of it are infintesimal. All it does is supports a socialist welfare state.

  • by Peter Dyck ( 201979 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @08:03AM (#994516)
    The reason why we are working even more today has nothing to do with the available technology. It has, however, everything to do with the prevalent political dogma that permeates the modern, post cold war societies in North America and Europe.

    Corporatism.

    As a demonstration of how little society's technological level correlates with its sense of morality, today's technology has been harnessed to the service of the meta-national corporate elite and their dogs-of-war, namely the law enforcement and military institutions.

    While the technology already exists to allow people to work 4 days a week or even less and still maintain a sufficient, ecologically sustainable zero growth production level, this would not benefit the corporate elite. They benefit solely from maintaining the hybris of continuous growth; keeping people consuming more and more regardless of whether they need all the material goodness or not. In this great scheme of things the role for us, the little people, is that of the unquestioning and obedient consumer living in fear and under the gun of the law enforcement establishment. A consumer ready to sell out his fellow man in vain hope of getting something in return from his corporate masters. The ultimate nightmare of a good consumer would be the fall of his benefactors and collapse of the entire corporate world. No-one to tell him what to think; what is right, what is wrong, what is good, what is bad. It is the human condition.

    This is the trap into which we have been lured in by false promises of comfort and safety. This is the prison from which we must escape.

    -Peter Dyck

  • Well, yes, something has happened. I wouldn't be talking like this if it hadn't. Yet, I think many of the really good ideas go unnoticed, because it is hard to market what people don't feel the need for. Take a look at the web. It was intended to be much more than the fancy, electronic newspaper that it is today. Take something as simple as content negotation. How many multi-lingual sites are actually using the language negotation features built in most browsers and at least Apache? debian.org [debian.org] is among the very few I'm aware of.

    That's just a minor thing. If it hadn't been for the tag soup people are coding instead of good HTML, we would allready have had full web (and probably lots of other common internet stuff) on our cell phones. And speech browsers, and, we would be a lot closer to the Semantic Web. Now, if that had happened allready, it would have been a revolution.

    Now, that means, we're all part of it, we all influence the future with the choices we make. OK, I really don't need to tell a /.er that... :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can work a four day week, just put in 20 hrs a day monday-thursday.

    You're working even more (and spending more time at work doing stuff you'd be doing on your own otherwise) because corporate culture is essentially feudal. That's right, you get bought for a salary, when you should be gatting paid by the hour. All those benefits and day care centers right at work and everything else? Corporate life? Kitchens at work, Stock Options (the part of your crop you get to sell on your own, peasant), on the job training, recent murmurs about moving social security into private hands...

    Face it: we got bought. Everything but the land, and we owe on that. You can change jobs, but it's the same situation everywhere. I can still remember those MathWorks bastards grinning all smug about how they wanted to hang out with my family and stuff. "You get three weeks of vacation, but you get to spend one at our corporate retreat in Pennsylvania!"

    No thanks. I don't want stocks, since I don't buy lottery tickets, either. No kids, no day care. No, I don't want to fucking hang out with you after work or during MY vacation. No bullshit team training, no meetings where eveyone sits and does nothing. Pay me for my time and then go pester someone else.

    Incidentally, there's plenty of statistics suggesting that office mechanization has boosted your output by near 20% over the last twenty years. Here, have a quarter.
  • Hmm...how were those plans you are building off prepared? How were the printed? How did the engineer test the structure? I would be willing to be that he used something digital.
    How did you get to work?
    Are you using any materials that were developed with computer technology?
    Are you using any power tools designed with computer technology?
    Are you installing, or a subcontractor, installing additional wiring to allow for extra telephone jacks for computer extensions?
    Are you using any color matched paints?
    All of those things to name a few use something digital.
  • Has he visited a Doctor Lately?
    Has he gone to the grocery store and scanned something at the register? Remember when everything had price tags that were individually marked and the checker had to key them individually?
    You can't escape digital unless you are going to live the lifestyle of an Amish Hermit in the middle of nowhere.
  • The impact is incredible, but people are either too young or forgetful to realize. I'm 29, but here is one solid example that I remember from my childhood in the 1970s:

    Banks used to be closed on weekends, and were only open from around 10-4 on Mondays to Wednesdays, and 10-6 on Thursdays and Fridays. There was no such thing as direct deposit, so everyone had to take their paycheques to the bank. Most people got paid on Wednesday or Thursday, in order to hit the one-hour window during their lunch-hour the following day, or the one-hour window after work on either Thursday or Friday.

    There was no such thing as ABMs, direct-debit payments at stores, and credit cards were not nearly as widespread as they are now, so most purchases were with cash. If you missed your one-hour opportunity to deposit your cheque and get enough cash for a week, then you were screwed until Monday at lunch.

    Aside: You know the little fence posts that denote the line-up area at the bank? Each one of those had an ashtray built into the top, and half the people in line were smoking the whole time.

    Don't poo-poo the digital revolution if you were born well after it started. Ask someone old, like me, and they'll tell you about long distance phone calls for around $1 a minute, buying 16k memory packs for a ZX-81, being amazed by arcade games like Pac-Man, and that you could change the channel without getting up from your chair.
    Mike van Lammeren
  • > Like advances in the past, the most important aspect is that productivity increases

    If you listen, you frequently hear voices asking whether the USA's multi-trillion dollar IT investment has actually led to any tangible productivity increases.

    I know that in the places I have worked there has been a marked tendancy for employees to fiddle with their computers rather than actually using them for productive purposes. This ranges everywhere from playing games at work (how many people do you know who like to turn their screen where it can be seen from the doorway?) down to the steady stream of clubies marching down to roust the guru out to show them for the thousandth time how to change fonts, screensavers, sound associations, etc.

    I think electronic productivity is like the paper-free society. It sounds good in principle, but in practice you have more people throwing away paper than ever before.

    Then there's the world of embedded processors; I don't notice elevators and stop lights to be any more efficient than they were before.

    For me, the null hypothesis is that the digital revolution has been incremental at best, and probably counterproductive in at least some areas. I will hold that null hypothesis until I see substantial evidence to the contrary.

    That's not to say that it couldn't make a grand difference, nor that it hasn't already in some areas. I just don't think it has in the big picture.

    But lots of interesting posts are pouring in; perhaps I'll feel otherwise within an hour or so.

    --
  • Think about it a little...before the industrial revolution, most people were farmers. A few lived in towns and, say, ran a general store, but not many. Then comes industrialization. Suddenly, there are cities everywhere. People spend their lives doing things that no one had ever dreamed of before - working in gigantic factories, assemblying machinery. Things people use every day, like clothing, can suddenly be produced at astonishing rates. Now that is a transformation for humanity.

    Except that it didn't really happen quite that way. It wasn't for about 100 years after the Industrial Revolution started that as much as 50% of the population moved to cities. In fact it wasn't the 1810's and 1820's when people were really building towns, as you'd expect if the Industrial Revolution were as rapid as you present it. The big surge in town building (in both America and Europe) came in the 1880's, which is why so many American towns and cities have a downtown with Lincoln, Grant, and Garfield Streets.

    As this post pointed out, thanks to computers and the internet that industrial life is speeding up. But have things changed on the same scale as when we industrialized? Neither I nor Paul Krugman are saying the digital world isn't different. But we still live in downtown high-rises or white two-stories in suburbs just like we did 20 years ago. We still go to the local grocery store or mall when we need things - mostly the same things we needed 20 years ago.

    Sure, but the timescale you're talking about is still too short. The time it took to truly industrialize was significantly longer than an average lifespan. Even considering that, the changes in our lifestyle are fairly significant; things like ubiquitous mobile communications, telecommuting, and internet shopping are having a significant social impact. Then there's the extent to which digital media are already redefining the concept of intellectual property, viz Napster, the GPL, and the DMCA. Not to mention the ongoing overthrow of conventional fixed format news and entertainment media. None of these things are complete yet, by any means, but they have the potential to create as broad a social change, if not such an upheaval in actual living arrangements, as the Industrial Revolution.

    Even more importantly, most of the social problems we face are the same as 20 years ago as well.

    I think that's a bit of an overstatement. In the US, for instance, issues of racial justice are less significant than they were 20 years ago (though they're still important) and economic justice is much more significant. The environment is drastically more important than it was, and people have come much close to a consensus on the idea that it really is an issue. Ronald Reagan and his gang genuinely didn't believe that environmental harm on a global scale was possible, but today even the strongest opponents of environmentalism have to couch their arguments in economic terms rather than denying the existence of the problem. Globalization is clearly a much bigger topic than it was, too.

    Those of us rich enough to reap the benefits can see a difference in our lives, but for the vast majority of humanity the digital age hasn't changed a thing (think Africa, India, and China...that's half the world's population right there). Industrialization did.

    This is significantly wrong. For many of those people in China, India, Africa, etc., Industrialization has yet to make a big impact. They're still farming in much the same way that their ancestors did, with little benefit from industrialization.

  • I feel that the digital revolution has lived up to its expectations in my case because I have chosen to take control of my life.

    There's a discussion of what happened to the four day work week below with the consensus that it never came about because of corporatism.

    As long as people just stay in their jobs and do what the boss expects of you, the boss can keep turning up the speed on the machine and you have to keep up.

    Not all of you are in the position to do what I do, but you could do something appropriate to yourself.

    I became a consultant

    It is still the case that I work long hours, but usually this is because I choose to. When I take time off is almost always under my control. I work at home, and I could work in the nude if I wanted to (I find office dress in the home office makes me more productive though).

    Note that this is different from telecommuting. I used to telecommute too, but it really didn't serve my needs. It invited the corporate master into my home.

    It is also different from being a contract programmer for a body shop. Read about my decision not to work with recruiters or agencies [goingware.com] and why they are bad for both employers and employees.

    There are a few aspects of the digital revolution that made this all possible:

    • I find customers almost entirely through the web. I explain how in Market Yourself - Tips for High Tech Consultants [goingware.com]

    • Laptops are suffiently powerful that I can use a laptop as my primary development machine for commercial programming on a variety of operating systems. Read about my laptop here. [goingware.com] This allows me to travel or live anywhere and have my development system at-hand.

    • With good phone service and a high-speed internet connection and online shopping I can operate my business from St. John's Newfoundland and live in a much nicer place than Silicon Valley.

    The most important factor in all of this is to make the conscious choice to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by high-tech yourself. If you don't make the choice I'm sure Time-Warner or Microsoft [geometricvisions.com] will be happy to make your decisions for you.

    Many geeks are shy people who are easily taken advantage of by those with more social skills - such as managers at high-tech companies, salemen and the like. The first step in taking control of your life will come when you can say "no" to your boss.

    I learned to say no to a difficult boss and my life at the company got better. I stopped working all nighters. And not too long after that I learned to stop feeling loyalty to a company that didn't care about me and went looking for a new job. Between one friday and the following monday my pay doubled.

    Read The Cluetrain Manifesto [cluetrain.com] for more information on how the Internet is restoring personal power to the individual and taking it away from the corporation.

    Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow

  • While you're at it think of the number of people put out of work in the last 50 years. We tend to forget the folks that have been judged redundant after having been replaced by computers... including bank tellers, file clerks, postal workers, industrial workers etc. The list is almost endless. Not to mention lowered standards of living as real wages drop. Not to mention the widening gap between the richest and the poorest. And nobody is going to, I hope, suggest the computer means diddly shit to my illiterate inlaws living on their subsistance farm in SE Asia. Their only metal is in their plow share, bolos and pots. Get real. Computers are toys for the relatively wealthy and seem to be turning us inward, not outward.
  • I was born in 1980, so I've grown up right along with the PC era. How had "digital" altered my life? A few examples...
    • My father typed his dissertation on an electric typewriter, then retyped it for the next draft. I've never had to use a typewriter for any paper I have ever done. That has saved me more hours than I want to count, especially since I've never been a superb typist. :-)
    • When I was in middle school and even my first few years of high school, if I had a paper to do I asked my parents to drive me to the local library, I flipped through the electronic catalog (already, something digital there), found some books that may or may not be of any use to me, took them home, poked through them, slowly, and eventually pulled out enough information to do my paper. These days, I go online, check the web site of a trusted newspaper or other news source, go to www.bluetooth.com for information for my tech reports, and otherwise do most of my research fro home.
    • I carry a TRGpro (PalmOS-based Palm Pilot clone) around with me everywhere. I now actually know the number of the person I need to call, have not forgotten an appointment in a very long time, and get the New York Times headline articles downloaded to me every morning, for free. Makes for great reading on the train.
    • My senior year of high school, I took the very-advanced Multi-Variable Calculus/Linear Algebra class we offered. In years past, homework assignments took two days, and the teacher told students to just set the problem up and not solve it, because doing so would simply take far too long, and if you understood what you were doing it was close enough. Then the TI-92 calculators came out, with symbolic recursive integration, and students were able to not only do their homework in a third the time, but that allowed us to cover the same material equally well if not better in half the time. That's when Linear Algebra was added to the course, because there was simply no time to do it before.
    • I'm a college undergrad right now, majoring in Human-Computer Interaction and doing web development on the side. I would be unimployed if it were not for digital technology. :-)
    • Speaking of the web, almost all political campaigns these days at the state level on up have a web site, and many make that their main push. It allows candidates and parties large and small to get their message out for minimal cost, and virtually for free compared to previous methods. (Mass mailings, armies of people beating the streets every day, etc.) Of course, that makes it possible for every "I hate *insert group or issue here*" yahoo to get his message out as well as legitimate parties, but it's a big impact either way. And let us not forget how easy it is to collect campaign donations over the web via credit card.

    Now, you could argue about whether the above changes are good or bad things, but I won't get into that now. The simple fact is that the microchip has had an extremely large impact on my life, and most (not quite all, but most) of it I am very grateful for. (Thank god I never had to use whiteout sheets. :-)

    --GrouchoMarx

  • The point of Krugman's op-ed piece is that he sides with the technoskeptics, who say that previous technological revolutions were "a bigger deal" than the present digital revolution. His proof of this is that he personally would much rather be able to take a hot shower, drive a car, or use electric lights than be able to download a particular document off of the internet.

    Krugman, you jackass, you wasted my time with an op-ed piece that reads like a sixth-grader's attempt at a report for social studies class. First, you talk about something you saw on tv, them you parrot two other authors' work, as if by the mere act of regurgitation, you personally have somehow added insight into the matter. Then you talk about tv some more.

    If you strip out the intellectual theft and piggybacking from his article, all you are left with is this pointy-headed professor's description of his own tv viewing habits, namely:

    "The new PBS mini-series "1900 House," which started last week, follows a modern British family that has agreed to spend three months living in a London townhouse that has been carefully de-modernized ... I was WORRIED [emphasis added] about the concept: would it turn out to be exploitation TV with a highbrow veneer, sort of "Survivor" meets "Upstairs, Downstairs"? "

    WORRIED!? Good job, Paulie, you just keep thinking those deep thoughts of yours, maybe next you can *worry* about who is leaving the cast of ER.

    I can see it now, sprawled out on the couch, scratching his ass with one hand and scribbling out an article onto a legal pad with his Cheetos-stained fingers while watching Britney Spears on MTV, desperately struggling to come up with something, anything, to meet his NY Times deadline.

    Here is why this pseudocerebral clown is a jackass (nothing personal):

    "On the other side are economists and historians who compare our current roster of new technologies with the transforming technologies of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and find our latest gizmos relatively trivial by comparison."

    Just as a light bulb is trivial compared to starving to death for lack of agriculture, the motor car is trivial compared to dying from exposure from lack of shelter, etc. Clearly people will address their most vital and pressing needs first. Shelter, clothing, food, personal safety, etc., and so on up the scale of achievements until you get to truly worthless things like the Krugman article.

    Obviously, if someone is given the choice between (a.) electricity and (b.) no electricity yet having a computer that requires electricity to operate and is useless without it, nine (possibly eight) out ten people will opt for the electrical service. Similarly, choosing between NOT dying of a disease or dying from the disease, but getting a new laser printer a few months after you die, most, possibly all, would choose to NOT die of a disease and forego the posthumous laser printer.

    Basic needs are met first--even I have heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and I am fairly ignorant. (I hope this posting proves that.)

    So the cool stuff like jet packs and fiberoptic neural implants happen after you master motorized land transportation and light bulbs. And, duh, giving up your jet pack (and commuting to work by hovercraft instead) is NEVER going to be "as big a deal" as if your world had no plumbing and everyone had to defecate were they stood. (Paints a pretty picture, don't it?) So what is more amazing- a jet pack or a toilet? Of course that's a stupid question, but that's my point. I hate when lusers waste my time and can't even be entertaining.

    Krugman, even your closing attempt at wry insight, "the future is not what it used to be" is a frigging ripoff-- you frigging [alleged] plagiarist. Here's why you fear the future, anyone can go to a search engine and find out in ten seconds that:

    "The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."
    -- Paul Valery (1871-1945)
    Nice attribution.

    Hey, I just thought of something original, too, "E=mc^2" ...Where's MY freakin' Nobel Prize????

    So, to summarize, I guess my point is that I was somewhat disappointed with the article.

  • The Cluetrain Manifesto [cluetrain.com] is all about how computers and the Internet are taking away power from corporate control and returning it to the people - both the customers and individual workers at the companies.

    Consider that when my former employer Live Picture announced that it was moving from scenic, rural Scotts Valley, California to Silicon Valley, the first thing I did (three hours after the announcement) was type up a page-long resignation with a detailed discussion of why I thought it was a miserable idea - and email it to each person in the heirarchy up in the company from my project manager to the Chief Executive Officer. I understand our expensive new CEO that was hand-picked by John Sculley was pretty furious about it (she got fired about a year later).

    Consider further that I could then use the Altavista advanced search for boolean expressions like employment and programming and 95060 [altavista.com] (repeated for each of the Santa Cruz County zip codes) allowed me to write the original form of this page:

    The Santa Cruz County Computer Industry Index [goingware.com]

    whose URL I then emailed around the company to help my coworkers find new local jobs so they wouldn't have to commute over the hill.

    Individual action has existed throughout history. What the Internet has done is made it much more effective.

    Anyone can speak out, and their speech can be accessed by anyone else almost instantly. Companies can try to carefully control communication between themselves and the market (or their vendors) but individual actions such as the one I took when my employer announced a really annoying policy design can make their efforts futile.

    Consider that Microsoft is working hard to win over the court of public opinion to prevent its breakup.

    How effective is that actually, today? How much more effective would that have been 15 years ago when Microsoft could have controlled the industry media and folks like us couldn't have spoken out effectively.

  • Um, I can't speak to how to cure the problems in Africa. I don't know enough about all of the problems. Part of it is pure human greed, both on the part of the multinationals and the select few that become part of the ruling elite in those countries. Beyond that - [shrug]

    But the kid in the 'ghetto' certainly can get a lot from the computers at his school if he has the motivation. Social factors have a greater influence on whether s/he succeeds - if her/his parents value education and honestly want a better life for their kids than they have, the kid stands a good chance. I remember being a geek in the suburbs wasn't easy when I was a kid, I'm sure it's even harder in more depressed areas - there's more pressure to conform to the herd and be a part of something larger than yourself that you can find protection in.

    Of course reducing the cost of higher education is definitely a necessity. It'd be nice to see some dot-com 20 year old millionaire contribute to scholarships big time (and Larry Ellison, Steve Ballmer et al.) That would be the other big hurdle, especially in the U.S. and increaingly also here in Canada, IMO.

  • And for those of you who doubt the omnipresence of the Digital Revolution, watch a little TV, read a newspaper, and see how many ads DON'T have a URL attatched to them somewhere along the bottom of the screen/ad.
    That's not the Digital Revolution. To see the DR at work, watch a good international news service on TV (in Oz I recommend SBS) and look for signs of MPEG compression in the video footage.
  • > The author ... thinks it's just not that much of a revolution yet. Does the Slashdot community agree?

    Heck no.

    In the mid 1980s I was at school in South Africa. First the govenment declared a National State of Emergency, then they stopped the newspapers from reporting to us what was going on, how the Govt. was resposible for much of the violence. The rest of the world had free access to this information, but they didn't want us to know.

    The newspapers, in protest, began to print large blank spaces where the news articles had been censored. This was then itself banned. We weren't allowed to know how much we didn't know.

    Given the internet today, just 15 years later, this kind of censorship would be complete exercise in futility. Enough people have access to browsers and printers to route around it.

    I firmly believe that if we had then what we have now, Apartheid would have fallen at least 5 years earlier.
  • "I do not see any improvement of that magnitude with computers."

    I disagree with you. If you disagree with me, then write out your answer on a piece of paper and mail it to me.

    Mike van Lammeren
  • In the old days, bureaucrats did not dare to ask people for three copies of documents, or 30-page reports
    I can remember a story from my grandfather serving in WWII. You know the big war about mid way through the 20th century. Well, he was stationed in North America watching telegraph lines. He has said he used to fill out by hand and send by courier 10-15 pages of forms every day, many of them in triplicate, by hand because his few sheets of carbon paper wore out. They would not send him duplicates.
    Moral of the story: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE BUREACRATS.
  • I think it's obvious that the digital revolution has had less impact on our lives than things like running water, electricity, or medical advances.

    Medicine has certainly had a bigger impact on my life, in that I still have one. I had appendicitis when I was nine. If I'd lived in one of those charming historical periods we love to read novels about, I probably would have died then.

    Furthermore, why do technology tycoons donate computers and software (often their own products) to schools rather than trying to genuinely help them? Or instead of donating money to organizations trying to vaccinate children, feed people, or providing disaster relief?

    I really don't think my ability to order from amazon.com or check my email on a wireless Pilot is anywhere near as significant, interesting, or historical as inventing a vaccine for polio or bringing clean running water to a community. The comparison is, in fact, ludicrous.

  • "In contrast, the internet has only made exchanging money easier. It hasn't forced huge segments of the population to move or change their way of living."

    In fact, it enables people to move from the city back to the country if they want. As soon as I can talk an employer into letting me code remotely, I'll be moving to a cottage on a lake.

    Mike van Lammeren
  • You do realize that him getting Karma doesn't deprive you of any, right?

    Unless that was intended as an insult, it's actually not correct. At any time, there's a finite number of moderator points assigned, and giving them to one post means they won't go to another.

    This is an aspect of +2 posting that might easily be overlooked... it not only makes the poster vulnerable to losing karma, it saves points to be bestowed on people who haven't earned the automatic upmod yet. This means that a greater number of worthwhile posts will end up with high scores (we assume that someone with the automatic point is going to post worthwhile things, so we don't have to waste moderation on them).

    - Michael
  • I do notice an improvement in stop lights. Most every stop light I visit has a sensor that makes it turn green if I'm sitting there and nobody else is coming. I didn't see that ten years ago.

    Refrigerators and washing machines seem more efficient too, but I can't measure them as easily.

    But then, my TV software can crash, making even the power button useless. I didn't see that ten years ago either. Hmm. Maybe it balances out. :-)
  • ...were revolutions? Revolution implies sudden and radical change. How much time did it take to give everyone in the U.S. hot running water? True, electricity, hot running water, new medical technologies and the Internet are revolutionary for some people in the world, but there are billions of people who don't have access these "revolutions".

    I recently visited South Africa, which is a weird mix of the 1st world and 3rd world. This visit really made me think about the way we live in developed countries. Many people in South Africa have jumped on the Internet bandwagon. You see billboards advertising MySAP.co.za, etc. on the highway. Keep driving on the same highway and you'll pass numerous townships where people live in shacks made with scavenged sheet metal and wood materials. There, people don't have electricity, hot running water and don't have much access to current medical technologies.

    I guess the only way you can say the Internet is revolutionary, just yet, is in idea.

    (BTW, how is medical progress (change over time) a revolution?!)

  • The same will happen now. The digital revolution alone will not make big waves in our dayly lives. But combine it with new revolutions in bio (gene) tech and nano-tech and the start of the corperate republic and it will make at least as much waves as the last big revolution.

    The big thing to consider is the extent to which the digital revolution is necessary for those other revolutions. Sequencing the Human Genome is going to have a huge impact on biology and medicine, and it would be completely impossible without digital computers. It's just not possible to deal with as much data as is a genome any other way, much less the much large ammount of data that is generated in producing that genome. Lincoln Stein, a leading bioinformaticist and Perl hacker, has estimated that it will require about 1 TB of total data to generate the roughly 1 GB human genome.

    The same thing is obviously true of a lot of other potential revolutions. If the first practical nanotech devices (if there ever is such a thing) aren't designed on digital computers, I'll eat my hat. An it's not just future developments that depend on digital media. A lot of those older technologies that have been so revolutionary, like cars, trains, the electrical grid, mass-media, modern medicine, etc., may not have depended on computers originally but they do today and it would be almost impossible to go back.

    Just to pick cars as an example, every mass-market car being designed and built today was designed, at least in part, on a computer. All modern cars are built on assembly lines that make heavy use of computer driven robotics. They depend on parts that are delivered by computer dependent just-in-time delivery systems, and they rely on so many on-board computers that they have to be extensively tested for negative effects caused by RF interference. Almost nobody would be willing to buy the best car that could be made without any use of computers because it would be so much more expensive and much lower quality than those that make extensive use of computers.

  • > Most every stop light I visit has a sensor that makes it turn green if I'm sitting there and nobody else is coming.

    FWIW, just this morning I sat for an extremely long time at a light where no one was crossing in the other direction. (Perhaps merely post-thunderstorm FOOBARation.)

    Clearly, this one counterexample is not enough to dismiss the whole digital revolution on. And lots of other people are pointing out other interesting things I hadn't thought of. Still, it looks to me like it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Three steps forward, two back, and all that.

    --
  • Damn straight they're spoiled compared to 100 years ago..

    Whatever happened to the days when we could get a worker and pay him 36 cents for an 18 hour day. Man, they're all just lazy bastards today. Useta be they'd sell you their 12 year olds and be happy to do it too, if it meant they got food on their table. Makes you wish we could go back to the good old days.

    Now that I've got that bit of vitriol out of my system..

    Take a look at before the industrial revolution. Yes, farmers would put in 14-15 hour days come harvest season, but that was generally only for a month or two throughout the year. The Holy Days actually came very close to the number of "working" days.

    And if you're looking at how many parents sacrifice their children, maybe you should also look at how many parents don't have a choice if they simply want to provide a decent meal three times a day to their kids.

    I'll agree that there's a lot of "Beat the Joneses" attitude out there, but you can't say that this attitude isn't fostered and encouraged by the political-economic system that's currently in place.

    Kwil
  • >> The author ... thinks it's just not that much of a revolution yet.
    >Does the Slashdot community agree?
    >Heck no.
    >In the mid 1980s I was at school in South Africa. First the govenment
    >declared a National State of Emergency, then they stopped the
    >newspapers from reporting to us what was going on, how the Govt. was

    Bullshit. The author of the piece is right and all you *technosnobs* know it. So what if you could get information via the interent? The point still remains that there were MILLIONS who couldn't because they didn't have acess to a computer or the Internet. The American revolution and revolutions throught history in places such as Latin America,Vietnam and yes even in South Africa got along just fine without the "The Digital Revolution". You guys really need to study human history before jumping on your soapbox.
  • > Unfortunately, the media has hyped everything up to the point of unbelievability, and everyone's wondering why they still have to drive to work.

    Yeah, before we lived in the Information Age, we lived in the Space Age. Where's the promise? Sure, satellites contribute a lot to communications and weather forecasting, and planetary probes contribute a lot so certain branches of science. But it's still kind of a joke to call it the Space Age.

    BTW, nice post. And not only is the Reading Revolution still in progress, but we couldn't even try to have a Digital Revolution without it.

    Over the long haul, I suspect AIDS and Megacorporations will shape the world more than the Digital Revolution does. Probably also some other things that stand out less obviously than AIDS and MCs do.
    --
  • by MillMan ( 85400 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @08:47AM (#994550)
    Most comments here point out why the digital revolution has been important, and I'm inclined to agree with most. But the article itself and everyone here has seemed to miss a point of the internet/information revolution: the fact that many people on this planet are becoming obsolete by market logic or even more obsolete than they were before. The result, of course, is lack of access to a modern lifestyle and thus a life of poverty in general.

    Whenever the technological complexity of the word/economy increases, the "cost of entry" goes up; as in the amount of education you need to be able to do work in such an economy, as well as the monetary cost of providing you with that education.

    So lets take a look at Africa. Africa has never been modernized in general, and has basically been in ruins since around WW2 (when I beleive colonialism ended). In the 80's, a lot of African countries decided they wanted to start modernizing. Loans were granted, projects were run, and it pretty much failed. Loans couldn't be paid. SO the IMF and the world bank stepped in. One of their main points in their fiscal restructuring for these countries was to make sure than "social spending" was kept to a minimum, which includes education, medical care, social well being in general. So at precisely the time that education has become even more important, it gets thrown out the window.

    To get Africa back on track, we can't just donate computers to them and expect the problem to be solved. 150 years ago it would have been much simpler, but look what needs to be put in place today: stable political structures, transporation and electric infastructure, social institutions (also for stability) and educational infastructure. That's no easy task.

    The market certainly won't correct this problem. Whats the incentive? Today Africa is used mainly for its natural resources, with corporations usally getting an unfair price while the heads of state are paid off. Even if it got a fair price for its resources, basing your economy off of this hasn't worked for probably 150 years: today you need advanced manufactured goods, and services. Now the market can't correct political issues in Africa, but it would be silly to ignore the fact that large corporations have a stake in this corruption, with nearly free labor and resources. There is no toher profit to be made, and thus no investment back into the community.

    The situation at home is similar. While everyone is talking about how its such a workers market, people have lots of money, etc, is only partially true, in reality the population is becoming highly polarized. So while myself with my EE degree can make pretty good money, that kid in the ghetto, even if he has computers at his/her school, has a low chance of making it this far.

    Social spending in the US has been cut quite a bit in recent years, in relation to defense and law enforement, anyway. People though cutting welfare would help, but it hasn't. It just makes poor people poorer, even if they have a job. So at exactly the time when education spending needs to go up significantly (especially for those who have poor schools to begin with) it hasn't.

    Now, you might be saying by now that I'm just a bleeding heart liberal, and I pretty much am. Fixing social issues isn't directly related to technology issues. I understand that. But you can't deny the higher cost of entry into today's economy, and how many people simply don't have it.

    The worlds governments and institutions simply haven't figured out a way to realign themselves to give equal access and opportunity to all.
  • By his measures, the printing press, TV, and radio didn't matter for much either, since they didn't make people directly able to buy more stuff right off the bat.

    The digital revolution will change the way the world gets things done even if it doesn't change the amount of things that get done. I'm willing to bet it will change both.

    Krugman seems to have made his bid to join the list of people who said things like, "A Wheel! Who needs one?," "Man will never fly," and "no one will ever need more than 640k of ram."

    -cwk.

  • > If there were no income tax and no social security collection, that would straight out allow a 3 or 4 day work week, because everyone would just have more money.

    While I generally agree with your post, that last part was IMO a bit over the top. If there was no income tax, and no other new or raised taxes to replace it, people would end up spending their "just have more money" maintaining the country's infrastructure. Or perhaps they would prefer to let it decay in order to "just have more money" in the short run, in which case I suspect that their wage earning ability would plummet after a few years.


    --
  • The digital revolution may be upon us.. but it seems to me we're in the very beginnings of it, not near the end.

    Many geeks can see it, we dream it.. sci-fi predicts it in a way..... the real digital revolution is barely even started... we're just getting the seeds in now.

    Of course it hasn't radically changed the world yet.. the industrial revolution took more than 5 years..... this one will probably take 20!

  • by dorzak ( 142233 ) <dorzak@gmAUDENail.com minus poet> on Sunday June 18, 2000 @07:03AM (#994560) Journal
    The digital Revolution has had a HUGE impact. However it is not as noticable as the others. We don't tend to think of how much work digital is making or saving us. However with running water we can point to the pump, the bucket, and say see I don't need those anymore. Digital is part of everything. It is an enabling revolution, for good or for bad. How many people now are involved in the stock market who weren't before? Sure they may not trade online, but they can deal with a local or phone call broker because he can now get that information faster and more reliably since the digital revolution. It used to be you had to call a brokerage in New York, or your agent did to get the actual transaction done. Transaction times were measured in days. Now they are measured in hours and sometimes minutes. Brokerages use to discourage you from making trades often because they had to hand compute, or with at most a calculator helping, the tax information. Wait, that calculator could arguably be called digital. The source of information the broker used were expensive. Now most of them use cheap TCP/IP to get the information. The digital revolution is an ungoing and a stealth revolution. Computers are part of it. Linux is part of it. Open Source thrives because of it. Take a look at early accounts of the BSD project. They used SNAIL MAIL to send huge reels of tape to developers, users, etc. Think about that.
  • Let's face it. For the past ten years, the media has hyped up everything to h*ll and back. There's no avoiding it these days. One enthusiastic reporter feels the need to .. er .. exaggerate a bit, and it runs from there. I firmly believe that a revolution is under way, but, frankly, it's only been going on for half a century(at most). All other fundamental revolutions took millennia(look at reading - the revolution started with the first form of writing, and has only reached fruition lately with high literacy in developed countries).

    Left to itself(without the media), the "Internet Revolution" would have proceeded a-pace. I can imagine small parts of our everyday lives having something to do with computers. Then larger parts. Eventually, a rather huge portion. Look at reading. How long can you go without seeing a word written somewhere? If you close your eyes, it'll be longer, but your brain might still turn something up ;)

    Anyways, so, there is a revolution under way. It's still in its infancy. There are many people whose lives are devoted to computers(they live, eat, breathe, and work computers). But not the masses. We're just waiting for the printing press, so to speak. Unfortunately, the media has hyped everything up to the point of unbelievability, and everyone's wondering why they still have to drive to work. Well, I say, wait. It'll come. In the end, one way of life will die, and one will emerge. It's just the way a world works - but don't hurry it.

    Dave
  • by kip3f ( 1210 )
    Right now, most computer and internet technology exists in a technological context; I can surf the web, or I can go outside into the "real world". Things will get interesting when this technology is really integrated into consumer products - a fridge that can print out a grocery list (and maybe even automatically order), vacuums that vac without any human intervention, an oven that can download recipes (to be displayed on its LCD, and to set the cooking times).
  • I think there are enough signs of this that it is a strong possiblity. Those who take advantage of new technologies will become more wealthy than those who don't. The working middle class will disappear. Thos with access to digital tech will become rich and powerful, those without it will become poor. It will be much like it was before the Industrial revolution. Those with the technology will have lax jobs as well - sitting at a computer, working at their leasure from any part of the globe.
  • It can also lead to such things as improved ecology, as by definition higher productivity means making more out of fewer resources.

    During our entire history of industrialization the standard of living has skyrocketed. We have also trashed our environment. There will be no ecological benifit from higher productivity. Higher productivity does not (sadly) mean making more out of fewer resources, but consuming resources faster.

    As the standard of living increases, everybody wants a bigger house, more stuff, and more time to travel. Even if we don't use up all of our resources, we will pollute the earth and crowd out everything else on it.

    Hopefully not. But I'm feeling pessimistic today.

  • see this essay [berkeley.edu] by Brad DeLong, an economist at UC Berkeley. He claims that "eighty percent of the acceleration of measured productivity growth in [1995-99] can be credited to information technology investment."

    He also suggests that information tech has the following unmeasured effects on things that economists find interesting:

    • Companies can keep better track of their inventory; this improves economic efficiency in general (since goods are spending less time "in the pipeline" between manufacture and sale) and may moderate the boom-and-bust cycle.
    • Perhaps unemployment is so low because the wage increases that employees expect are equal to their growth in productivity -- and therefore, employers don't need a higher unemployment rate to keep workers' aspirations in check.
    • If historical macroeconomic patterns don't apply, then this creates trouble for national banks (such as the US Federal Reserve), because they can't depend on comparisons with past business cycles to decide whether to raise or lower interest rates.
    • If deposits at commercial banks become less significant as a means of payment, then central banks might not be able to affect interest rates (since right now, they operate by selling and buying bonds at those banks).

    --
  • It's funny. I didn''t even look at the NYT piece yet, but we're having a discussion with the very same title in an audio engineering forum of which I'm a part.

    In the audio world there two camps. The analog camp, and (you guessed it!) the digital camp. I'm sure you can guess how the analog guys feel about digital audio. :-)

    Rich...

  • ``Banks used to be closed on weekends, and were only open from around 10-4 on Mondays to Wednesdays, and 10-6 on Thursdays and Fridays.''

    Depends on where you lived. I took out the cash for my first car late on a Saturday afternoon... from a drive-through.

    There was no such thing as direct deposit, so everyone had to take their paycheques to the bank. Most people got paid on Wednesday or Thursday, in order to hit the one-hour window during their lunch-hour the following day, or the one-hour window after work on either Thursday or Friday.

    I seem to recall that going to the bank was not such the big deal that you think it was... of course, you would have been a toddler in those days. I remember running into friends at the bank. Also, the need for instant cash that everyone seems to have now wasn't so widespread. I worked some summers at places that would cash employee's checks at the job site. (Mainly, we thought, so they could blow it all on beer when they got off work. Me? I could always wait until Saturday morning when I could walk to the bank.)

    ``There was no such thing as ABMs,...''

    There still aren't. They're prohibited by a treaty. (I know, I know... you meant A- T -Ms.)

    ``...direct-debit payments at stores, and credit cards were not nearly as widespread as they are now, so most purchases were with cash. If you missed your one-hour opportunity to deposit your cheque and get enough cash for a week, then you were screwed until Monday at lunch.''

    Most stores accepted checks for purchases. Nowadays, clerks look at you like you're from Mars when you want to pay with a check. If you were incapable of managing your money, I can see where not having 24x7 access to your bank could be a problem. Most people were able to plan their expenditures and have the appropriate amount of real cash on available, otherwise theyd write a check. As far as the easy availability of credit cards, one could argue that easy access to credit has not been such a good thing. You rarely heard of people declaring bankruptcy back in the good old '70s. Nowadays, it seems that every other person you meet has had a credit card revoked or has declared Chapter Something-or-other because they got themselves into financial trouble via easy access to credit. Not exactly progress, IMHO.

    I'm not all that sentimental about those days. I just don't think that they were as bad as some people make them out to be. Things weren't bad, just different.
    --

  • If you listen, you frequently hear voices asking whether the USA's multi-trillion dollar IT investment has actually led to any tangible productivity increases.

    This is misleading for a large number of reasons. One is that the questions about productivity are primarily aimed at whether or not investment in desktop computers has improved office productivity. This is both a much narrower question than the impact of computers in general (which is clearly positive; take a look at automation in manufacturing) and a harder question to answer because office productivity is very hard to measure. If computer technology allows me to create better written reports (because I can edit more easily) with easier to understand figures (because of graphics software) in the same length of time it used to take to do things the old way, has my productivity increased? I think it has, because my product is more valuable, but that's not going to show up in any conventional measure of productivity.

    The issue of quality is actually a deep problem with many measures of productivity. A car today costs a lot more than a car did 10 years ago (even taking the CPI into account) but they're not directly comprable. The modern car is quieter, safer, more comfortable, less poluting, and has better performance and more features- and a lot of that is attributable to increased use of digital computers both directly and in the design and construction of the car. Without taking that qualitative factor into account, though, it looks as though cars production hasn't gained much in productivity. In fact, manufacturers today could build a car to the standards of a decade ago for a lot less, indicating a big jump in productivity- much of it computer driven.

  • Why is it even an issue?
    It seems so obvious.

    Barring interference (noise) in the analog signal (in other words, things over short distances, or long distance with lots of extra engineering), analog will always sound better or equal to digital. Digital cannot sound better than analog....

    however, when it comes to replicating signal, with analog there is always the possibility (and the reality) of signal degradation.

    It is much cheaper to broadcast a superior quality digital signal throughout, say, all of north america, than it is analog.
    It is much easier to make limitless copies of digital audio and keep the quality the same.

    With analog, certainly, the quality could be better, but it does not have this property.
  • By citing the stock market, I think you're missing the point. Having running water or flowing electricity had a direct & immediate impact on the quality of life for millions of people. Being able to buy or sell shares of stock faster is a nice perk for a small percentage, but even for them has little impact on quality of life. You may have have a good point, but this isn't the evidence to prove it.

    I can't decide if all this digital hoohah is making the world a better place or not. Certainly there is a considerable minority that stands to gain much from it -- I would include the Slashdot audience among that number. But there's a much larger majority that, if they feel any impact from it, it's only going to be indirectly -- at least for now.

    Access to quick information keeps getting bandied about as the next big revolution, in the spirit of the space age, the industrial age, etc. I dunno, I guess. Certainly the current new wave of technological innovation [1] has had a massive impact on our economy. But are these changes good? Profits are up, salaries aren't. Job security is a relic. Stock holders are cashing in -- and more people are becomign stock holders -- but that leaves a couple of problems, like what about the rest of us that aren't in on the market. More importantly, what about the ones that are in the market -- if it crashes, as I'm sure it will sooner or later, where will these young workers with crap salaries and worthless stock options be? Our success is by no means assured.

    But that's just the economic side of things. Things like water, electricity, and the telephone had benefits far beyond the economic. They enabled a whole new range of activities while making a large number of older ones simpler or even unnecessary (going to the well, etc). What does the info revolution offer to the average Joe? On one hand, he doesn't ever have to go to a library again if all the books are already out there [promo.net]. Why call your friends cross country when you can chat [marko.net] for free at your computer? Why, indeed, would you ever have to leave your home at all?

    The digital age unquestionably brings great benefits, but it also brings great dangers. It's not unique in this (plumbing might have brought, say, cholera, and electricity of course brought electrocution) and I'm not yet sure how the good and bad sides balance out here. I think that won't be clear for several years to come. If we transform from a nation of couch potatos into a nation of desk potatos, that isn't necessarily an improvement. I am looking to see how things unfold over the coming years before forming an opinion on this matter...

    [1] (Does anyone else hate using that word now? Is it just me?)



  • All of the advances since 1900 have been part of the scientific revolution, of which the digital revolution is a part. Computers are happening because some scientists and mathematicians studied solid state physics and the theory of computation, basically the same reason we have electricity and medicine, etc.

    It was a long time between the discovery of electricity and its widespread use in homes. As the light bulb was to the application of electricity, so the Internet is to the digital revolution -- the means for getting the basics installed in everyone's home. In the beginning many complained of the harsh unreal light of electric bulbs, and loudly bemoaned the so-called "progress." But lightbulbs improved and a whole spectrum of unimagined applications rapidly arose from the availability of electricity.

    The next real shocker may well be practical nanotechnology or genetic mastery. But those who thumb their nose at the digital revolution then should imagine the difficulty of designing nanotechnology or decoding the genome without computers. It's too interdependent to make comparing parts useful, and what would be the point? To tell scientists what to study?
  • That article looked like a paid advert for the show "1900 house". The phrase "1900 house" appeared four times in quotes, and once outside of them.

    From the article:

    I hope that digital technology proves me wrong; but on the evidence of "1900 House," I'd say that the future is not what it used to be.

    Thank "god"! Digital technology has already proven him wrong, following on the heels of analog technology which did the same thing. People have been bitching about this forever, how the world isn't the same, and how they're nostalgic for the good old days when we had the plague and malaria running around all over the place, when children died of polio or spent the rest of their lives crippled because of it, when infant mortality rates were more than twice what they are today...

    If we suddenly reverted our technology to that of a hundred years in the past, I'm guessing about a quarter of the population of the US would die off in the first six months, with similar dieback numbers in most of Europe. Third world countries would do much better; Most of their populations haven't seen much in the way of changes in their way of life in the last hundred years, except in cheaper medications being available to them. I'm guessing we'd only see ten to twenty percent over six months, there.

    It's important to realize how far our materials, textiles, and medicines have come over just the last century, which should give you some idea of the impact on our population, mostly in medicine. People used to die because they stepped on a rusty nail, and now you get a course of shots, experience some soreness and maybe a mild infection, and you're walking on it with only mild stiffness in a week or so. The only improvement to our health would come from reverting to a period before the industrial revolution, which would probably halve our cancer rates or something. Lung Cancer seems to be primarily caused by particulate matter like soot, which wasn't so much of an issue in most (non-volcanic) parts of the world prior to the industrial revolution.

    There's also the discontent factor. We have too many people to have them all wandering the streets in a state of boredom at once... And if you think WE would be in a sad state without the entertainments we've come to enjoy, consider China, or Japan, with even more insane population densities in places than we in the US "enjoy". (Yes, I know Slashdot has a global readership, but I can only speak from what I know.)

    Face it, once you've been to the moon, you can't go back to tilt-a-whirl, and once you've been to the twenty-first century, hopping back to the beginning of the twentieth just doesn't sound that exciting. It sounds more like an exercise in old and unexciting ways to die.

  • Posts like this make me wish I had a mod point to give you. Anyway...

    the web is worse than tv for fostering a sense of narrative

    Definitely- even "Baywatch" at leasts attempts to wrap a POS plot around the T&A.

    The complete and utter cooptation of the web by commercial interests.

    Go cry on somebody else's shoulder. It's not polluting any rivers or making the air dirty and it's fostering the transfer of large sums of money from the suits to the pocket-protector crowd.

    The web promotes exchange and access to information. In the near future, information by itself will become as much of a commodity as cement or cold-rolled steel. The only people who will profit then will be those who can add value, aka Knowledge. The fewer of these people there are, the more money I will make.

    What about society? It will survive, just like it has for generations. In the US there are tons of resources available for people who want to adapt, and a tremendous job market waiting for those who do. If people resist changing with the times they will get run over, and that's nothing new.

    -cwk.

  • by GreenCow ( 201973 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @07:10AM (#994590) Journal
    I believe more of what we have now is improvements to our ability to access information and to communicate..in the past 10 years we have gained the ability to exchange ideas with almost everyone on Earth instantly..not everyone has a computer but almost everyone has access to one through libraries and schools. It's not a substantial difference for those who choose not to use it, but such level of communication and accessability is what leads into the next 10 years, where the fruits of our developments start to come forth..everyones lives will either be made perfect or we will destroy ourselves, when the potential for either becomes so easy, then one of them is bound to happen.
  • The "digital revolution" has had an enormous impact on my life. I'm from a "village" of 1,350 people but I have friends from all over the world. "Digitization" (yeah I know, not even a word) is an enabler, it enables people to do so much more then you could without it, akin to machinery.

    If it really hasn't had an impact on our lives then why does everyone seem to have a computer these days, why are IT jobs becomming more and more prevelant, and why doesn't my watch still have hands that rotate around the face?

    I think that anyone who says the Digital Revolution hasn't had a significant impact on our lives can't see the forest for the trees.

    -- iCEBaLM
  • Some revolutions just aren't that tangible. Look around you. I bet a lot of what you see is made out of some form of plastic. Yet, who ever heard of the "plastic" revolution? Or how about the synthetic textiles revolution? The strength of many "revolutions" often lies in the fact that they are taken for granted. Perhaps we don't think there is a revolution now...but in a 100 years we will all be talking about the "digital revolution".
  • I'm not so sure that "warmth" we're looking for is necessarily due to sample rate.

    I know guys who record at 96Khz all the time, and then record the same thing at 48 Khz and a/b it, and then stick with 48K since it sounds identical to them, and they save storage space.

    What is the one thing that analog tape does that digital doesn't? (or two as the case may be).

    1) Analog adds some harmonic distoration when you hit it hard enough (with some tape compression), and

    2) Analog has wow and flutter... which means there's plenty of phase coherency problems at higher frequencies (the higher the frequencies the more things get out of phase from wow and flutter).

    I've worked in analog rooms for the past 5 years, so I'm no digital apologist, but I'm also a computer guy, and it seems to me that BOTH of those things can be emulated in the digital domain with a good enough alogorithm.

    George Massenburg has already done a ton of research in these areas and he states emphatically that all it takes to emulate these things is good math, and enough processing power (but we already knew that, didn't we?).

    So it's only a matter of time before digital wins on all levels. For convenience it's already tops (until you get some errors on your tapes!) and it's only a matter of time until we can sit in front of a good digital console and there will be emulatiom modes for 20 of the world's most favorite mic-pre's, compressors, EQ's and the ability to emulate different brands of analog tape at different flux references.

    Kasparov lost, so will analog... it's inevitable.

    Rich...

  • > Do you really think that massive, geographically distributed, tightly integrated megacorps could exist without modern digital communications?

    East India Company?

    Yeah, digital helps, a lot, but so do frequent flier miles and doughnuts. I just think there are (probably) going to be a lot of direct social and political consequences of MCs (and AIDS) that outweigh the direct social and political consequences of the DR.

    Perhaps I'm wrong. I'm pretty optimistic about the role the internet is playing in giving the Little Guy a voice (so long as he isn't too poor to go on line), though unfortunately I expect to see it 0wned and regulated to the point that it's ultimately no more revolutionary than the telephone and newspaper have been for the past 100 years.

    --
  • Why is it even an issue? It seems so obvious.

    To WHOM? Nothing is that simple or black and white, and certainly not this topic considering that hundreds of millions (if not billions) are being spent on DSP in the audio arena.

    Digital cannot sound better than analog....

    Where is THAT written? :-)

    It's only a matter of time, I'd bet anything that I own. See my other post on this matter.

  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @12:46PM (#994612)
    People have access to the Internet, but the value of that is debatable. Doing searches on various topics shows this. You tend to gets lots of hits for:

    * porn
    * anything pop culture related (movies, young actresses, pop music, TV shows, video games)
    * anything geek related (Linux, programming, MP3s, freedom of software)
    * special interest hobbyists (users of old computers, gardeners, model rocket builders, etc.)
    * Intentionally weird stuff (scans of housecats, pop tart experiments, marshmallow bunny torture).
    * The same news you see in papers and on TV.
    * Corporate marketing fluff.

    What you don't find is most of what's in any library. It's very easy to come up with an important topic that turns up very little web action. This always bothers me when I see students using the web for research.
  • The so called Digital Revolution is still in its infancy. I can't help but wonder if all the world was marveling at what has happening when those first factories were being built or when those first steam engines hit the tracks. Probably not. The average people on the street were probably commented about those weird, huge factories. Sure, those people working directly in those industries realized the potential of what they were doing, but most of them probably had no idea just *how* important it would be. We label periods in time in hindsight. Someone living in what we refer to as the Ice Age today wouldn't have called it that. They'd just say it was too damn cold out. We don't know really what all this technology we're developing today is going to mean for the human race. We can hypothesize and predict, sometimes we might even be right. But if the time we live in is going to be labeled the Digital Revolution, we are at the forefront of it. We're not even completely sure of what to do with. Before this can truly be called a revolution and effect everyone's lives forever the technology needs to improve (and it will), it needs to become ubiquitous (and it probably will). Today, I think we're still laying the groundwork for the real revolution which has yet to come. But for right now, "Digital Revolution" is only a marketing buzz word to me.
  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Sunday June 18, 2000 @07:27AM (#994615) Homepage
    Like advances in the past, the most important aspect is that productivity increases -- not that we can suddenly play Quake at good ping times, or email grandpa instead of snail mailing him.

    Productivity increases lead to higher and higher standards of living, which mean fewer poor people, more choices for everyone, etc.

    It can also lead to such things as improved ecology, as by definition higher productivity means making more out of fewer resources.

    It's so hard to measure how much recent increases in productivity are due to computing and the net. If you build a bridge, you know that the bridge doesn't actually create things, but it helps people get places where they can create things. If you build cyberspace, it doesn't build anything at all physically, but it helps other people to be more productive as they see fit.

    Knowing that I can order from outpost.com at 11pm and receive what I ordered at 10am the next day has led to changes in how I work. Knowing that I can get the news/outlook I need from Slashdot has led to massive changes in how I think. (I run a web development business, and I now refuse to take Microsoft work.)

    Look at the 40s and 50s. They had rooms full of *typists* for pete's sake. People whose only job was to type up what people wanted to communicate. Those jobs are now all gone, replaced with jobs that *must* be more productive. And the modern economy sucked in all the cheap labor from welfare reform *without* having those people sit in a room typing.

    What's more, the marketplace is now so ultra-competitive that no money in a business can possibly be wasted. In the 70s and early 80s, businesses were full of fat. Projects went nowhere. People made money for doing nothing. When that happens today, there's more likely to be real consequences, IMO. I like that; it means that bad management is punished and ludicrous waste is avoided. Usually.
    --

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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