Paper 3 : The Future of How We Share Information
The history of information and how it is shared stretches back to simple crude drawings of cave dwelling people. Slowly, over time, information has been spread to more people much faster. Written language began with pen and paper which could eventually be printed, manufactured in mass quantities and shipped over distance. Eventually telegraphs, telephones, television and computers were shaping the way people live their lives. Society has become more and more dependent on technology that connects them to information and communication. As new technologies were developed to spread information in a quicker and broader way, more technology was developed to make these tasks easier. The question that might be difficult to answer is this: does new technology dictate the information being communicated or is it the information that creates the demand for new technology?
People have sought to share and send information across distance to each other for centuries which fueled many inventions that have evolved into many that are still used today. Telegraph was the beginnings of a more instant communication, something that people do today through internet and phone communications. Printing is a form of technology that was used possibly the longest to share information however it is the one form that is finally phasing out. With screens and instant handheld access to information that was previously printed, publishing companies are finding that they can cut costs through online publishing and their audience is more inclined to use their devices for reading their content. Radio and television are forms of sending information that also still exists but just like publishing they are being sent and viewed through internet and handheld devices more often. All of these technologies may eventually phase out but the information that they are used for may still be sent and received in other ways.
Computers, including desktops, tablets and smartphones are responsible for a huge shift in how people share information. Today computers and the internet are a part of every day life for people all over the world. The beginnings of computers and automated machines goes back to the early 1800s (1). Many of the earliest forms of computers were built for making calculations. Throughout the early part f the 1900s the concept of a programmable computer was evolving slowly and being developed by different people in the US and Europe. (2) Computers were further developed from the 1970s through the 1980s by companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Apple. These are all names that are still well known today and products by these companies are used in nearly ever home and office or business. With the development of the internet computers took on an entirely new purpose. Throughout the 1990s many of the ways we share information began to change. From online shopping with companies such as Amazon to the beginnings of downloading music and reading articles online.
The more that the internet became used in homes and businesses, the more it changed every almost every other technology that people use. While the internet was slow in the beginning with dial up modems that tied up phone lines eventually more convenient and faster technology was developed. As connections became faster, more information could be downloaded, sent and shared. Today most videos are streaming, allowing people to watch videos instantly. YouTube was one of the first major websites to use this streaming technology and is now used on phones and tablets to watch news, share personal videos, and research anything in a matter of minutes. Now that streaming video can be viewed on phones that most people keep with them at all times, there is little reason to ever go back to traditional television, VHS or DVD. Thee is no longer a need for the clutter of storing files or videos separately and iMac computers no longer come with a CD drive. The reason for this is not because a CD drive is more expensive but rather that companies realize that there is no longer a need to store information this way. Every video, music file, word file or anything previously printed or stored on a disc can now exists on a device or network and be accessed instantly.
Just as the internet changed things dramatically so did the invention of the smart phone. Although the idea of the smart phone did not move as quickly as the internet. Technology that seems to take off overnight and become part of everyday life is not always so new. Cell phones were not popularized until the 1990s but the technology has existed as early as the 1940s. Often the timing or the initial designs are not right even though the idea was there. As more cell phone companies grew and towers went up, service became better and more people were inclined to buy cell phones. With the invention of the internet and wifi phones and other devices such as e-readers and tablets have become more popular and companies have invested in developing better hand held devices due to a demand for them that was not there when these ideas were first introduced. In this case one technology such as a phone or tablet is useless without another technology, a network that can quickly send and receive information. These devices are only tools for sending and receiving information over wireless networks.
In this case the devices can adapt and change to better suit the information being sent over these networks. Photots and videos demand high quality and larger screens, possibly a main reason for a tablet that is the same as a smartphone only larger. E-readers such as the kindle have a paperwhite screen so that words can be viewed on a non reflective surface much like an actual book. E-reader existed years before the kindle in a bulky form with little content available to view. Now with wifi and a store such as amazon.com, millions of books can be bought, cheaper than print, and downloaded instantly to a device. Once things become convenient for the consumer and cheap to manufacture they have a much better chance of becoming popular. It could be possible that past technologies that were once passed over with no success could eventually become as life changing as the smartphone if the conditions are right.
For the time being, however, most major companies such as apple and google are continuing to build on their previous success. Apple has recently released a new, smaller tablet, identical to what they have already created. They are constantly developing tools to give the iphone more advanced functionality and new uses. Smart phones can be used, and likely will be more so in the future, to collect and share much more personal data. They can be used to track or measure our every move including sleeping habits, steps taken, calories consumes or burned. This information can be shared instantly with a person’s doctor. Cardiologist Eric Topol has recently published a book about how technology such as smart phones will play a large part in the future of medicine. (3) With the capabilities of this technology to gather data about a person’s health as well as fast networks to share the data with, it seems likely that nearly every doctor will connect with their patients through tablets or smartphones. It is possible that new device will be developed specifically for this use. Apple has already created a wrist band that collects health related data that can be sent and analyzed on other devices.
Google is also developing new devises based on the uses of a smartphone but taking the technology to a new level of user experience. Currently Google is developing glasses that function similarly to a smart phone except that social media, video and communication will become part of a persons own environment rather than a separate device to be put away and checked frequently. With google glasses information will be streaming to the user as often as they like with no need to separate themselves from their device. Google has also created a car that can drive itself with the use of information from satellites. This kind of use of technology may be the future of a more creative way to send and receive information for a useful purpose. Smart phones already use GPS for sending information about customers locations or to help the user navigate or even find their device if lost.
One of the most interesting and realistic examples of how all of these technologies may evolve is illustrated by Corning Glass in their video “A Day of Glass”. The video shows how technology similar to that of smartphones can be used in nearly every aspect of life. From cooking to driving, changing the light in a room, viewing television, communicating and how we work and create. As people become more comfortable with touch devices companies can incorporate this technology in their products and the user will intuitively understand how to use it. Sending and receiving information will become a part of the user and feel as natural as reading a newspaper does to people now. In the future reading a printed book will seem more like something strange and foreign to most people.
The way we process and share information has changed its form many times throughout history and is now moving faster than ever. The information that we share may also shape the devices that we use to do so. Once thing that has not changed is that we are always moving toward something more convenient, faster and profitable.