Sunday, July 29, 2007

Still time for us...

In an act of extraordinary courage, author David Shenk returns to a book he wrote all the way back in 1997 - almost the Dawn of Time - to critique his predictions about the Internet.
Rereading the book 10 years later has been gratifying and humbling. A number of its ideas are, I think, more relevant than ever, while other passages come off as exaggerated or shortsighted. The premise still holds, and thankfully no longer requires much convincing: In our work, home, and social lives, we are saturated with data and stimulus. While our grandparents were limited by access to information and speed of communication, we are restricted largely by our ability to wade through it all. As with calories, we must work constantly to whittle down, prioritize, and pick out the choice nutritional bits. If we don't monitor our information diets carefully, our cerebral lives quickly become bloated. Attention gets diverted (sometimes dangerously so); conversations and trains-of-thought interrupted; skepticism short-circuited; stillness and silence all but eliminated. Probably the greatest overall threat is that so many potentially meaningful experiences can easily be supplanted by merely thrilling experiences. [More]
Aside from being a thoughtful exception to the rare appearance of accountability, Shenk's words can be still be in time to be useful for many of us in agriculture.

For technical, economic and social reasons, many trends and gadgets that take our culture by storm often require another few years (5-6 b my rough estimate) to become part of our rural lives. For example, think about when your family and friends were using cell phones, and when you finally slapped one on.

Likewise, the constant connectivity Shenk describes is still relatively rare in the country.

It will come soon, I believe. And if we choose to do so we can benefit from this adoption lag in several ways. First, the gadgets will be cheaper. We will have a wider choice. The bug will largely have been frustratingly worked out be the pioneers.

But most of all, we can make better choices about how to allow the gadget to change our lives and values. By observing change effects in other lives, we can at least pause on the brink and jump with a little more aim and purpose.

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