In a remarkably short period of time, the Internet and associated technologies have changed our lives in amazingly fundamental ways, and you can literally observe that change at work. If you watch a movie produced just a few years ago, it’s astounding how quickly the social changes have taken place—and how glaringly those changes stand out. Movie characters don’t talk on pay phones any more, so a reliable plot device once used by writers is gone forever. It’s hard to write scenes of characters lost in the wilderness, or anywhere else, for that matter—nowadays they use the cell phone to summon help.
Who’d still stop and roll down the car window to ask a passerby directions? Not needed anymore, with GPS technology taking over. And those fancy brass billboard cases at the front doors of restaurants displaying the menu? They’re slowly disappearing, since all that menu information can be called up on a smartphone in an instant—while standing right there in the doorway!
Does anyone still stop and grab a newspaper from a sidewalk vending machine to check on what’s playing at the local movie theater? Virtually no one. And the local newspaper film critic (this writer once was one) whose judgments were, if not respected, at least considered, has nearly disappeared, overtaken by hoards of online critics. More and more filmgoers and concertgoers simply buy tickets on-line before they leave the house, and don’t go near the box-office.
In fact, does anyone still sit at a favorite lunch counter devouring the morning paper? Another habit virtually extinguished. Of course, there’s the rude new compulsion to be seated at a restaurant and immediately begin checking email and web surfing while waiting for the food to arrive. Tables of people, four or six at a time, silently ignore each other while they squint at their mobile devices. Not all of the changes have been affirmative.
I daily observe drivers here in