While it may be some time before we know whether the curve of innovation is truly exponential, the world around us is certainly shifting faster and faster. If you had been born 500 years ago, the world you lived in would have looked pretty much the same upon your death as it had upon your birth. Your grandparents could go a decade or two with steady but relatively minor progression in the tools they used to live their lives. Now the accoutrements of our lives — even those, like books, that seemed eternal — are apt to be obsolescent.
But we should be able to cut through the emotion and make reasonable judgments about each custom that passes away.
if we can’t sort the new and useful from the new and idiotic, then the faster change comes, the more lost we’ll be.
It’s entirely possible that within our lifetimes we’ll see yet another transformational change, on the scale brought by the Internet, television, the printing press, or even the development of agriculture (the last still ranks as the most important technological innovation in human history). When we do, we’ll undoubtedly lose something, just as we do with every change. Sometimes these losses are trivial — like the noble tradition of buggy-whip craftsmanship — but sometimes they are more meaningful. When those changes transform an already extraordinarily complex society, the question of whether, taken together, they are good or bad for us itself becomes tremendously challenging to answer.