The Olden Times
When I was a young boy, Little House on the Prairie was a popular G-rated TV show. I watched it all the time. When my parents would tuck me into bed for the night I often drilled them with questions about North American pioneers. “Mom, Dad, in the oldentimes”, I would begin; I’m pretty sure I thought of it as one word and as a realm that was on par those like outer space and the dinosaurs.
I think subconsciously one of the reasons it interested me so much was because I found the alien era to be exotic. The clothes were foreign, the buildings were different, the whole way of life was alien to me. I guess you could say that it was the novelty that attracted me. They used oil lamps to light their way to bed in the evening instead of electric light bulbs and used horses to get around instead of cars.
I distinctly remember one episode of Little House on the Prairie where the mother and father were talking in bed by lamplight and eating popcorn. I was really surprised that they had popcorn back then. I thought, “How the heck did they pop it?”. It made me feel for the first time that The Olden Times weren’t so distant and that the “normal” world that I lived in wasn’t static.
My daughter crawling on an interactive multi-touch table at the Aquarium.
Looking Towards The Future
As I got older, I learned of futuristic concepts such as jetpacks, robots, wearable computers and space stations. The way that the notion of “The Future” made me feel, was very similar to how The Olden Times made me feel. It was a disconnected universe from the one that I was in. I knew that we were moving towards The Future, but I didn’t know when we would reach my interpretation of it, or whether it would be in my lifetime.
The Future Becomes the Present
As time went on, I got excited about all the technologies that became realities for average consumers. Microwaves, Internet, iPhones, the International Space Station and even retail jetpacks. So, I thought, we’ve caught up to the future and now we’re living it. I suppose that happens to everyone who’s been lucky enough to have lived for at least a few decades.
Displaced into The Future
My job today is in part to keep up with emerging technologies and use them to create interesting, stimulating and useful business solutions. I think it’s fair to say that people who don’t keep up with technology are easily impressed by it when shown a new gadget. Conversely, those who keep abreast of technology have typically anticipated some of what’s to come and while they still manage to get somewhat excited are probably less amazed by it.
From the perspective of someone who is in the second camp, I see that in the past five years, the proliferation of affordable technology has surged forward at an incredible rate. Devices like the iPhone are more advanced than some of the devices James Bond had and the average consumer can buy one without being MI5. These days, I’m amazed not only by new inventions, but the incredible pace of invention. It feels like there’s hardly any time now between the last neato thing and the next . Sometimes I feel as though the future is now rushing towards us instead of us moving towards the future.
Forward so Fast We’ve Gone Back in Time.
It dawned on me recently, that my daughter, born last year, will probably think of life when I was a little boy, as The Olden Times. She’ll say, Daddy, what was life like before the Internet? What was life like before computers and cell phones? She’ll take for granted things like instant global communication, ubiquitous portable computing, routine space travel and space tourism. She will probably accept without question that it’s normal for her world to be in constant, rapid flux.
Zen and Adrenaline
All this change can be exciting and sometimes overwhelming. I personally find balance by spending many hours per week mountain biking or hiking in the wilderness which I’m lucky to have at my doorstep. Looking forward is exciting for the same reasons as peering far into the past – it is exotic and novel. I don’t know if all this change is good or bad but it’s one hell of a ride.