The Digital Revolution: Its Advantages and Disadvantages
The Digital Revolution is the newest economic revolution. Like the Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marks a complete shift in our society, signals a new era, and alters many aspects of our lives. While not everyone is familiar with the term, the Digital Revolution refers to the shift from technology based on analog and mechanical electronics to digital technology.
Digital technology allows information to be copied and replicated precisely. It is due to digital technology that our society is now so defined by computers, smart phones, internet access, and cell phone communication. The Digital Revolution, in fact, marks the beginning of a new age: the Information Age.
It isn’t hard to see the advantages of the Digital Revolution. You probably benefit from it every day. In fact, if you are reading this article, then you are experiencing one of the benefits of the Revolution – it vastly increases the knowledge at our fingertips, expanding our understanding of the world, and compiling entire encyclopedias of knowledge in online databases. Consider some other advantages of this Revolution:
- The Digital Revolution links individuals and groups together. Never before have we been able to communicate real-time with others in distant corners of the world. And this advantage is not limited to international communication – we now have instant access to our friends and family members a few miles away. Unlike traditional telephones, cell phones have brought this ‘communication power’ into our hands in the most remote locations.
- The Digital Revolution has created tools that are catalysts for sharing ideas. No longer do you need to be the executive of a wealthy business in order to share your thoughts with others on a broad scale – using social media and common technologies, ideas can be shared and innovation can be accelerated.
- Similarly, we now have a world of online opportunity. Start-up companies can begin in a bedroom with a single laptop. Jobs can be obtained – and worked – in the back of a truck deep in the forest. You can find and purchase rare books through online services without getting out of bed.
- While not all may appreciate it, the Digital Revolution forces competitiveness on a global scale. Prior to the revolution, stores only needed to compete with other stores in their region. A book may not have been the best book on the subject, but only needed to be the best book that the library had. Now, the level of competition is global. If this competitiveness hurts smaller, less efficient and lower-quality entities, it allows us, the consumers, access to a far wider marketplace of goods and knowledge.
While we can all recognize and appreciate the powerful advantages that the Digital Revolution brings to our fingertips, I write this article primarily so that we would recognize the disadvantages that tag along. The Digital Revolution has become such an ubiquitous part of our lives that we may hardly notice the damaging effects that it brings along. My point is not to focus on those clear and obvious evils such as hackers and organized crime that are so obvious – you probably already understand those problems. Rather, consider how the Digital Revolution can bring about such disadvantages on a personal and societal level:
- You and I are gifted beyond measure to live in an age when so much knowledge is available, but as I have previously described, people abuse this wealth of knowledge in three ways: (1) by only wishing to be acquainted with many things, (2) by turning its blessing into a curse, and (3) by wishing to know only for the sake of knowing. (You can read more about the abuse of knowledge here).
- By opening up so much knowledge to us – and presenting it at our fingertips – the Information Age allows evil to spawn and grow at an alarming rate. From the questionable to the perverted, from the dubious to the depraved, the same information can be presented to us instantly and transit the globe in moments, without allowing society time to sit back and consider the information or ideas that are offered to us.
- A whole family can now live in a single house and yet live like single people, because this Revolution breaks down many relationships and our sense of community. While we can maintain friendships in distant states and countries, it breaks down all those friendships which are not actively fostered in the digital realm. When you get on a bus or train full of people on their smartphones, it reveals this sad truth: that everyone is connected, but only to those whom they chose to connect with.
- Similarly, digital technology breaks apart our sense of political and regional community. This has been in decay for some time now, but the Information Age is tearing it apart faster than ever. The idea that we can choose our friends through social media, and stay connected with only those – without spending time with those who live and interact around us – tears down the idea that we live in a community, in a special place in the world. It tears down the idea that we need our neighbors on a political level, which prepares for the abuse of democracy.
- Finally, the digital realm encourages passivism, rather than discernment. Having information presented on a screen (as it constantly is in the Information Age) welcomes viewers to sit back, accept the message that is presented, and move on without time for reflection. While movies and media all communicate messages, digital electronics have a strange way of obscuring that fact and encouraging passive consumerism. Television has been around for some time, but only multiply the problem.
Like fire, electronics make a handy servant but a dangerous master. Or, as we could alter the phrase, ‘Electronics make a stultifying master but an astonishing servant.’ When they dominate our lives, they encourage us to sit back, stop thinking, and grow ignorant and disconnected. When we harness them as a servant, then electronics are some of the most beneficial tools ever known to man.