Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Opinion

LeMieux: From iPhones to Facebook, technology changes the world

Last week, as America focused on the Senate's attempts to pass health care reform, the latest mass shootings in the Bronx and Arkansas, and another 140-character attack by the leader of the free world, two important and related milestones were realized.

First, the iPhone celebrated its 10th anniversary. Since its launch in 2007, the iconic smartphone has sold more than 1.2 billion units and transformed the mobile phone from a device for phone calls and texts to a handheld computer platform of limitless applications. The word "revolutionary" is overused, but for the iPhone it is spot-on. Not since the advent of the telephone, radio, automobile and television have the lives of Americans been so profoundly changed.

This past week also featured a stunning announcement from Facebook. The social media giant reported that its platform now has 2 billion subscribers. That's almost 30 percent of the world's population! When you subtract more than 3 billion people who live in dire poverty worldwide, and the 1 billion-plus children, you come to the conclusion that most every adult of some means is on Facebook. Surely an accomplishment of that magnitude took decades to achieve.

It took 13 years.

By comparison, it took Christianity some 2000 years to have 2.2 billion adherents. Islam, a mere 1,400 years old, has fewer subscribers than Facebook — only 1.8 billion.

As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explains in his recent book, Thanks for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, the world is transforming at a dizzying pace. Not since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440 has technology had such a profound and destabilizing impact on the world. The printing press' transmission of quick and accurate information created literacy among lay people. That in turn deprived priests of the sole dominion of reading and teaching the Bible, leading to the division of Christianity into Catholics and Protestants and a 30-year war in Europe. Readily available writing also led to scientific breakthroughs and the Age of Enlightenment, which ended the age of kings and sowed the seeds of the American experiment.

The societal, political and cultural changes we are experiencing due to the Internet, handheld computers, social media and artificial intelligence are equally profound. Terrorists are recruited online, one-third of U.S. marriages start with online dating and every day technology kills another job, from the tollbooth operator, to wait staff (where iPads are used for ordering), to retail store clerks as more sales are made online. In truth, no job, not even computer programming, is safe from elimination by technology. Politics is no less susceptible to the influences of technological transformation. President Barack Obama used online fundraising to fuel an underdog candidacy against heavily favored Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary. President Donald Trump uses Twitter to speak directly to his supporters and as a rhetorical weapon against his foes in the media. And technology, namely hacking, was the implement the Russian government used in its efforts to undermine our election.

Technology and its acceleration is the destabilizing, disruptive and transformative force of our times. It may cure cancer and lead to the end of our cultural, religious and political institutions as we know them, all within our lifetimes. To make matters more interesting, the speed of change is likely to increase, not decline. Drones, self-driving cars, computer screen glasses: here, almost here, and coming soon.

I once thought that a person born in 1900 who lived to 1970 would experience an unmatched lifetime of innovation — from the first flight of the airplane to the moon landing. Now, for my four children ages 7 to 14, I can only imagine what they will see during their lives. It is an extraordinary time to be alive, but accelerating technology will be as disruptive as exciting.

Buckle up, America!

George LeMieux served as a Republican U.S. senator, governor's chief of staff and deputy attorney general.

Comments
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nationís 14 million hard-working restauran...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18