March 15, 2010

Flat? Fast? So?

My world is a small place that moves fast. About 3 years ago I was in China with my fiance. We were planning on getting married the next year and thought we would take a trip to China to see her hometown. While there, my wife bought a book called 世界是平的,or "The World is Flat," by Thomas Friedman, but it was in Chinese and I wasn't (and still am not) fluent enough to read it. Flash forward one year: I am headed back to China again as I am going to go pick her up to bring her back to the USA for our marriage. While in the airport, I spotted this same book (small world, eh?) and thought, "Hey, why not?" I bought it and began to read it on my 15 hour trip (a relatively short flight ) to Wuhan, Hubei, China.

The book was about how technology is changing the world, making it smaller and essentially flat as far as communication goes. As I read the book, a few thoughts kept coming back to me. The first was, "This book is interesting, but tell me something I don't know." And my second thought was, "Hmm, I guess change didn't used to happen that fast." I realized I have grown up in an age that is completely different than any other in the history of man. I live in an age where change is common and communication is easy. From the beginning of time, communication and travel have always been difficult. Distance always kept humanity from reaching its goals and potential. Well, not anymore. My life is different from the past thousands of years that man has been on this planet.

To me, a fast pace is normal. I've never experienced anything else. With enough money, I can travel to anywhere in the world in less than a day. My world is a world where if I can't figure out how to align 100 different pairs of gene sequences in under 30 seconds, I'm not fast enough to get an A grade. The skills I learn in school will be obsolete before I get a job. My wife talks to her parents instantly for free from Utah to China through video chat, but if the sound lags just a little then everyone gets frustrated. I expect that next year a hundred things I've never dreamed of will be invented and become common place in my life. This isn't strange to me. My whole life has been this way. I'm used to it.