Thursday, June 21, 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: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBIís handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but itís also suppression

The Supreme Courtís ruling last Monday to allow Ohioís purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they havenít voted, Ohioís purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18