The speed of Information

The speed of information is faster than the speed of sound.

It is impressive towards many, yet alarming for some.  Paul Virilio, a French cultural theorist and urbanist, expresses in his writings the costs of faster information speeds.  Because of our ability to perform daily activities with individuals across the world (via e-mail, texts, social media, video games, business transactions, etc.), Virilio fears that, gradually, many humans will lose their senses of reality.  Coupled with an international market system that is liberal in nature (free trade, globalization, etc.), Virilio also warns that customary politics, which are today characterized by political parties and representative institutions (i.e parliament), will be replaced by politics of opinion.  After all, it will be easier than it was in the direct democracy system of ancient Greek city-states for individuals across the planet to express their preferences.

Albert Einstein agreed with Virilio in certain respects.  He warned his colleagues about damages from the “electric bomb”, an abstract bomb that would negatively affect society.  This “electric bomb” would cause mass unemployment, wired jobs, and delocalization of enterprises as technology proliferates.  Concretely speaking, increases in technology proficiency have increased inequality numbers across different countries.  Because of technology and globalization, expectations regarding a college education and a blue collar worker have changed.  Outsourcing of jobs has lowered the amount of jobs in the United States market; college students will most likely receive a job offer if they are proficient with technology; and employers would rather save money through technological means than provide jobs at higher costs to their profits.

Virilio and Albert Einstein, of course, possessed pessimistic views regarding information proliferation.  I, however, disagree with their arguments.  Both Einstein and Virilio lived in an age where the concept of personal computers and cell phones were unknown.  Furthermore, just like how we fear the prospective negative side effects of nanobots in our blood streams, robots in our homes, and super sonic public transportation systems, Einstein and Virilio focused on the prospective costs of technological innovation (leading to the increase of the speed of information).  The speed of information is helpful to world society.  Standards of living are higher across all income groups.  Research and academic activity has become easier and more motivating.  Information lets us perform projects together.  Information provides avenues for people to solve a wide set of everyday problems.

If you disagree with any of the words in this post, feel free to make a comment.  Discussion would be highly appreciated.

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