How much has changed in the last hundred years? It’s an impossible question to answer, but an interesting one to contemplate. Because it’s as if we’ve taken this thing called life, this sense we’d reached of how society can be organised, and dialled it up in so many complicated and interconnected ways.
Technology completely reshaped the world: business, communication, the administration of society, knowledge, education, culture, pretty much everything’s now running through these channels and sparking off all it finds there (see Notes One). The structures of society, of thought, and the relationships we have with the world all now mediated through that web.
What does that mean? That our personal and social lives within the human and natural environment are now lived through or with the help of technological advancements? That’s essentially how the West, particularly, is experiencing life and what it means to be human. We live through screens, with much of how we act assisted by them.
It’s fascinating, because humans have likely never lived this way: one step back from reality. We’re simultaneously less engaged with “reality” as it stands before us, yet so much more aware of everything that’s going on globally. We’re all taking part in systems and interactions that span the world at astonishing speeds; but that can often feel surreally detached from our lives.
Effectively, we took “society”, all its structures and constructs, and plugged it into this whole new way of operating: old forms rapidly escalating to this completely different scale and pace. And it’s easy to say that’s just how life is, that we have little choice but to go with the flow and accept this as the new normal. But it’s not “normal”.
I mean, it only started happening to any noticeable extent in the last twenty years; with the pace of that change and its ability to shift our realities increasing rapidly in the last decade or so. It might’ve been on the cards for a while before that, but in practical terms we completely transformed our world in an incredibly brief timeframe.
That’s clearly not any kind of revelation. But how exactly we might comprehend what’s happened and happening seems such an important challenge. With everything so fundamentally reconfigured through the mindset and ramifications of technology, the idea of a human life and what that might mean is being altered almost beyond recognition.
Being human, presumably, used to mean understanding our world, its social realities, the opportunities we have, standards and relationships we might uphold, and expectations we could have. Things might’ve been much more limited, but they likely made quite a lot of “sense”. Now, much of that’s gone out the window; life changing almost before we’ve noticed.
In such a short span of time, we’ve completely changed what it means to be human, how we connect with life, the relationships we have, and what it all means. It might be incredibly liberating, but it’s also a lot to get our heads around and navigate wisely.
Notes and References: