Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Agents of change

There is a quote on one of the walls of the New York Historical Society that says:
...hundreds had come on foot and in all sorts of vehicles...most of them as ignorant as their horses as to what a railway train really was...
-- Edward Lamson Henry
This quote is above a painting by Henry that shows a steam locomotive sitting on new tracks the moment before it is fired up and running. It shows the moment before a monumental change in transportation. From then on, transportation methods continued to increase in speed. How we defined "local" became much broader. And our world in general got much smaller.

In recent history, there was also a moment before our communications explosion when the methods of communicating were changing. Communications became faster and then instantaneous. We now can communicate voice, sounds, pictures, moving pictures and data. Our ability to share information has changed because of these changes in how we communicate.

So too there was a moment just before the first item was digitized, when the inventors had only an idea of how it would be used. But then that "one" invention sparked other changes and other technologies. We can now digitize many more types of materials than perhaps those first people envisioned.

And what changes are occurring today and how will they impact us in the future? Only time will tell. Maybe a quote on the walls of the New York Historical Society in 2106 will point to an invention in our era that indeed changed the world.

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