Technology has become so ubiquitous that we almost don’t notice it anymore. Like a background program running on our PC, we know it’s there, but it runs quietly and out of sight. We now take for granted many inventions that would have stunned previous generations–like the portable telephone in our back pocket that doubles as a full-scale computer or the e-reader in our hands with enough cloud- storage capacity to house more information than available at a city library.
In fact, we only pay attention when something startling occurs. Take, for instance, the groundbreaking research into graphene sheets, a material so thin that it’s only one atom thick; which, incidentally, from our 3-D perspective, would qualify it to be a 2-D object. The reason why material scientists are frantically researching is that it could create safer hardhats for construction workers and superior semiconductors for electronic circuits and because it’s stronger than steel and a better conductor than copper.
Still, we don’t need to rely on new discoveries to awaken our jaded curiosity. It’s enough to just remember that that the technology we use on a daily basis helps us survive and communicate with each other. Take, for example, the Internet and electricity.
The Astonishing Usefulness of the Internet
When you move to a new apartment or house, the first thing you’ll do is unlikely to be introducing yourself to your new neighbors. Instead, you’ll make sure you’re connected to your new environment via the Internet. You’ll research internet service providers by zip code to make sure that you’re linked to the World Wide Web so that you can renew your Skype, email, and Facebook contacts and tell everyone about your new home.
The reason for your enthusiasm to get your computer and Wi-Fi devices hooked up to an ISP service is because the Internet has opened up a whole new world. It has made it easy to access information, stay in touch with family and friends, and communicate faster and easier than ever before. You can do all sorts of things once you’re online: Twitter to your friends in China, go online shopping and check your online banking account. You can also use the Internet to work from home, do an online job search, or make an appointment or reservation.
The Illuminating Discovery of Electricity
Although the scientific discovery of electricity started in the 1860s in Great Britain as a result of Michael Faraday’s experiments and James Clerk Maxwell’s equations, the technology, or the practical applications of electricity, started in the United States, with such key figures as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Nicholas Tesla.
Here’s a quick chronology of how this technology evolved in the United States:
In 1752, Benjamin Franklin flew a kite with a metal key in a thunderstorm as an experiment to see if lightning was the same thing as electricity. Since he survived to tell the tale, we learned that his hunch was correct.
In 1879, Thomas Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park, developed the long-lasting light bulb in his laboratory to light up the world.
In 1889, Nicholas Tesla developed the alternating current induction motor to send electricity across long distances. He is also credited with breakthrough inventions, like radio, radar, fluorescent light, vacuum tubes, loud speakers, and numerous other inventions that have completely changed our civilization.
By 1930, most large American towns had electricity and by 1935 it was spread to the rural areas by the Rural Electric Administration.
Now, in 2017, we freak out if we have a prolonged power outage.
The Smart Future
While we’re familiar with the idea of electricity lighting up our computers, this is only the beginning. In the future, this fundamental commingling of technologies will mature into the Internet of Things (IoT), which will be the foundation for the smart home. This, in turn, will probably lead to such futuristic concepts as the smart city.
While our nonchalance toward technology may be a psychological defense against feeling overwhelmed by the relentless pace of innovation, it has its downside–we’ve lost our sense of wonder. As a result of our apathy, we don’t bother to adopt many of the readily available technologies that can enhance our lives. For instance, a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) class can educate you on many technical subjects taught at the top universities to accelerate your career success from the comfort of your own home, or a medical alert device can save a life, or monitored security can protect a home.