10 August 2013

Brave New World

Somewhere around the end of the 1790s society began to grow a bit uncomfortable in its own skin.  World thought was becoming molded by the rational, enlightened ideals of science and reason, questioning God.  Its foundation literally being reforged by industrial revolution.

It was all too unfamiliar.  Other-worldly.  Far away from home.  Society began to push back, on this brave new world they had never seen before.  They maybe yet hadn’t enough time to get their collective head around it all.

Coal.  Steam power.  Machinery.  Mass production.  Revolution.  The rights of man over the state.  An age advocating reason over revelation, condemning the very institutions of God for their corruption and secular inbreeding.  Almost permanent world war across every continent.

Some philosophers, writers, artists withdrew from that world.  And they began re-writing it.  Re-painting it.  Re-thinking it.  And they gave us the opposite of science, critical analysis or enlightenment.  They gave us Romanticism.

Greats like Coleridge, Wordsworth, Goya, Friedrich, Austen, Bryant, Turner, Shelley, Peacock, Irving, Scott, Keats, Byron, Schubert, Delacroix, Cooper, Pushkin, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Hugo, Andersen, Poe, Stendhal, Gogol, Carroll, Whittier, Dickens, Dumas, Wagner, Isaacs, Chopin, Thoreau, Emerson, the Brontes, Lowell, Thackeray, Durand, Hawthorne, Melville, Lizst, Beecher Stowe, Tennyson, Flaubert, Dickinson, Brahms, Collins, Longfellow, Eliot, Turgenev, Manet, Strauss, Cezanne, Renoir, Monet, Dostoevsky, Alcott, Twain, Tolstoy, Verne, Degas, Homer, Tchaikovsky, Trollope, Debussy, Stevenson, Massenet, van Gogh, Seurat, Rimsky-Korsakov, Hardy, Wilde, Repin, Munch, Kipling, Chase, Stoker… To name a few (well I guess, to name most of note).

And it made me think of now.  I wonder if we will have a push-back period?  If so, when and what might it create?  Push-back from what, you might ask?  In an extremely short period of time, our entire world has become radically and forever transformed by the digital revolution (already an archaic term) that gained critical mass in the 1990s.

Our social interaction through the Internet, with digital devices through wireless connectivity, really arrived en masse in its present ubiquitous form just over the past five to seven years or so.  We've hardly had a chance to breathe.  Get use to it.  Evolve our interrelations through it.  Partly because it all is still just changing so fast.  Every two or three years it still looks so different from the two or three years before.

To illustrate, just this year, mobile app use surpassed mobile web browsing.  The modern-day smartphone didn't even exist until just six years ago with the release of the iPhone in 2007 (Blackberry and other predecessors don't really compare).  The next year, Apple opened its App Store and the Android came out.  The Samsung Galaxy and Wave, Windows phone and Apple iPad have barely been out two or three years.  Indeed, “app” was 2010’s word of the year.

The Internet itself had over two billion users by 2010 (2.4 billion presently). We had half that the year Apple launched its iPhone in 2007. There were 500 million users in 2001.  In 1997, there were only 70 million.  (That's worldwide.)

In 2012 Facebook achieved over one billion users.  It had 12 million in 2006.  This year, YouTube scored over one billion users – the year after it was founded, in 2006, it had 30-40 million.  LinkedIn achieved over 200 million members last year, up from 32 million in 2008.

In 2012, Twitter had 340 million Tweets daily.  Two years earlier in 2010 – the year #hashtag use exploded – Twitter had 65 million Tweets per day.  Two years before that in 2008, it took three months for Twitter to log 100 million Tweets.

Instagram only launched in 2010.  By 2012, it had 100 million users.  Tumblr microblogs only came out in 2008.  So did Spotify, and doubled its 2010, ten million users in two years by 2012.  Buzzfeed and Skype got popular only around 2006, around when Politico and The Huffington Post launched.

The oldest stuff we have is the iTunes Store, which has now been around since 2003.  Three years later, it sold its one billionth song.  By 2010, ten billion songs.  Wikipedia launched in 2001.  It now has 365 million readers of 30 million articles in 286 languages.  PayPal launched in 2000.  Relics Napster and MySpace were at their peaks around 1999.  eBay launched around 1997. And Amazon.com sold its first book in 1995 – when there were 16 million Internet users worldwide.

We’ve come a long way.  Every few years.  And this is our brave new world.  Which will look kind of rustic a few years from now.  I don’t have any deep thoughts about it.  Mostly because my head is still spinning about it.  I am fascinated to watch the evolution, eyes wide open, looking for signs of the birth of Postmodern Romanticism.

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