Shrinking the world


Long-journey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to think that the world was absolutely enormous. As a child, whenever we went anywhere as a family, it was usually by bus or car. Buses are not the fastest mode of transport on Earth and neither of my parents were speed freaks, so even when travelling by car, every journey took an absolute age. It didn’t help that cars back then were particularly unreliable and that dad used to buy cars from that twilight zone between bangerdom and scrapyard. Inevitably, on any lengthy journey, the chances were that we would break down extending the journey even further.

Like most children, I was given a globe for Christmas one year. As I looked at the tiny pink specks that made up the British Isles, I used to find it incredible that it took us such a long time just to traverse our tiny island. I used to look at other places on the globe and wonder how long it would take to get there.

Easyjet and Ryanair had yet to turn the airline industry upside down, so air travel remained the pursuit of the wealthy or business travellers. Our regular trips to Ireland involved getting to Holyhead, which meant an extremely long train journey or an even longer car journey. Once you got to the ferry terminal, you had another six hour trip across the sea. It didn’t stop there – we had to then get from the port to where we were supposed to be. It felt to me like an epic voyage every time.

Back in those days, if you wanted to get a message to someone, you had two choices – by telephone (a landline naturally) or by post. I was amazed when I visited a friend at Durham University when I saw email for the first time. My friend asked me to hang on for a moment because he was in the middle of a conversation with someone in Japan. Intrigued – I watched him as he typed away on his keyboard and sent a message. Moments later – he got a response – from Japan! I was astonished.

Things have sped up so so much. How far do you think that Amazon would have come if they quoted “please allow 28 days for delivery”. Everything is pretty much instantaneous. With the power of the Internet and Google, the instant after you ask yourself a question – you can find the answer to almost anything. I can’t help thinking that all this near instant gratification comes at a price. We have ever shorter attention spans. Will people actually manage to finish reading books in the future ?

Once upon a time, when you were at a loss for things to do, you would tend to daydream. Nowadays, most people reach for the smartphone and log into Facebook.


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