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.
Beyond consumer-level inventions, scientific discoveries continue to advance, fueled by profitable payoffs. Geo-stationary satellites have enabled television stations to provide timely weather predictions to their viewers, delivered to our living rooms by educated and attractive meteorologists. New techniques have released clean and inexpensive energy sources that will fuel civilization for a very long time. Space- based observatories have provided understanding toward a likely explanation for the unfolding of the Universe. And thousands of scientists are studying the components of matter using the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator, paving the way toward engineering materials and medical solutions at the microelectromechanical and nano levels.
All of these advances on so many levels have produced a new cultural norm for the under-35 set. They were born into a world where things should make sense or get replaced by a superior invention. Millennials have an understandable expectation of efficiency. Incorporated into their daily lives are affordable access to timely information, gourmet coffee, fine music, and reliable transportation. An American born today may never experience a flat tire, a stolen wallet, or getting lost.
The effects of this soft revolution will reach every corner of our community. The 40 hour work week will be replaced by employees who are always working while always on vacation. Education will evolve from the captive audience to succinct videos on everything (See MOOCS). Mobile devices will be used to store your driver’s license, pay the gardener, and vote.
The most positive advance in this brave new world may be the disarming of the false-consensus effect that is prevalent in politicians, union members, and college professors. That is, the tendency to overestimate the degree to which one's opinions and beliefs are shared by others. Much to the dismay of Al Gore, Kim Jong-un, and every member of the Obama Administration, any teenager will be able to fact-check outlandish claims in an instant.
We are transitioning from the Information Age into the Applied Science Age. What this means above all is that assertions used to affect the behavior of others can be quickly confirmed or disproven.
In the early 1600s, Galileo got into trouble with the ruling class for theorizing that the Earth revolves around the sun. This was the 17th Century version of not being politically correct. Galileo tried his best to reconcile scientific evidence with prevailing sensibilities. But without the supporting network of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the Internet and an iPad, Galileo spent the final eight years of his life under house arrest.
Liberal professors seem to have taken up the Roman Inquisition’s assertion that the Earth is the center of the universe (environmentalism, climate change, etc). Hard-left politicians assert that the government is the center of the universe. Union thugs believe that they are the center of the universe. But dispassionate evidence in the palm of everyone’s hand will support this worldview like a glacier respects a retaining wall.