Aldous Huxley got a lot of things right in his envisioning of a Brave New World, especially in the rise of the state coupled with the dismissal of natural social structures. What Huxley did not foresee was just how powerfully equipped that the individual would become thanks to technological advancements that emerged so rapidly that the control of the state could not keep pace.
In the short span of the past twenty years, the Internet has grown from about a half-million users to well over 2.7 billion. This represents 39% of the world’s population, including over 80% of every resident of the United States. Hot on the heels of the World Wide Web was the explosion of cellular (mobile) communications, which now serves 87% of the global population. This relatively sudden appearance of a global human collaboration capability makes it possible to immediately distribute information, including personal communications, across most of the world.
The advent of fiber optic cables in the 1980s increased bandwidth capacity for long haul digital transmissions like never before. Specially designed ships have placed fiber optic cables on the ocean floor, connecting most populated landmasses throughout the globe. As of 2006, 99% of all international digital traffic is carried across submarine cables, with just 1% traveling via satellite. And by 2010, every continent except Antarctica was physically connected to the Internet by way of underwater fiber optics (see www.submarinecablemap.com).
Thanks to the innovations of micro-sized components – like the accelerometer, tiny cameras, microphones, high-resolution micro displays, Gorilla Glass, dry cell batteries, micro antennae, micro GPS receivers, and tightly written software (“apps”) – regular old cell phones have evolved into a fantastic array of smart mobile devices. Add to that a supporting infrastructure of cloud storage, big data, search engines, software management (iTunes), and a 24-bird GPS satellite constellation, and most humans are equipped for sci-fi novel efficiency in the palm of their hand.