- Bridging distances
Transforming the globe into a village means that its inhabitants are well-connected, well-acquainted with one another. This global community has surpassed many challenges, particularly that of distance. Now, people from the under-developed world, even if only twenty-two percent from Africa, can connect with their counterparts residing in the developed world. There has been a time when people living in one part of the world had no clue of the people living in another part. Since the earliest civilisations of Ggantija, 8000 BC, to the more recent civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, 3100 BC, humanity has trod a long path that includes marvelous inventions, like rafts and ideograms, and splendid discoveries, like fire and geomagnetism.
The early civilisations had no clue of one another’s existence; travelling for discovering the land was followed by trading for better life style. Those who had interaction with foreigners were few; fewer ever stepped on a foreign land. One of the earliest pursuits of humans, after forming into cities, has been the discovery of other human colonies. They kept connecting the dots of human presence to the point where they were joined to form the all-encompassing map of the world, hence, taking the load off Atlas’ bare shoulders. Today’s world is encompassed by a cyber-space, an omnipresent phenomenon, which brings to the table even the remotest, the farthest, the strangest of the lands and their inhabitants. Today information is abundant; communication easy and socialisation instant. Today one’s friends are not the ones s/he knows personally but everyone/anyone who shares a common interest.
However, setting aside the geographical expansion of human understanding, if a technological change is made the pivot, socio-cultural evolution – a term used by Gerhard Lenski – takes place, dividing human experience of living together in five societies defined by the kind of technology they had, with each society changing with the new technology that it designed or received. First, hunting and gathering societies, more than 12,000 years ago, relied on simple tools – the stone-knife, the spear, bow and arrow – to hunt down animals and gather vegetation for survival. Family was the driving force of this society. Then, horticultural and pastoral society, some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, developed horticulture that used manual tools for plantation, replacing food picking with food cultivation. The regions where it was difficult to grow food developed pastoralism, the domestication of animals. It was horticulturalists who quickly multiplied in number and who extended the settlements with trade. The world still has horticultural and pastoral societies – South America, Africa and Asia, but now they are virtually connected with the more developed parts.
Some 500 years ago, civilisation dawned with the revolutionary techniques like harnessing of plows for agriculture, canalisation of rivers for cultivation, invention of wheel for transportation, usage of metals for personal defense and utensils and the formulation of writing for recording history. The two-million squares mile long Roman Empire, in 100 BC, was agrarian with a population of seventy million. This was the time when “high culture” emerged, making some eligible for “refined” activities and others for hard physical labour. The emergence of distinct religious, political and economic groups led to city-states that had a loosening family system. With large machines driven by various sources of energy, the fourth type of society, the industrial society, began making traditional values weaker and work ethics stronger. Most people got the chance of, if not “refined” learning, schooling which slightly decreased the social inequality. Throughout these epochs, Aristotle’s social, rational animals learnt about their surroundings, devising ways to cope up with temperate change, geographical variations, economic disparities, ideological clashes and social differences while they continued multiplying in number, outnumbering all mammals on the face of earth and having only brown rats, domestic chickens and some insects as their rivals in number.
Taking under the microscope, the way people living in the US interact with one another or/and across the world would be helpful in understanding the extent to which the ICTs have improvised the ways modern societies live
With the passage of time, the number of inventions superseded the number of discoveries as scientists uncovered most of the planet earth. With better understanding of the world comes the better ways of handling the known. Inventions coming out one after another have completely changed the way Homo sapiens, the frog in the well, hoped to survive as the fittest; now it is the smartest. Daniel Bell (1973) gave the idea of post-industrialism: “The production of information using technology”. The post-industrial society relies on computer which uses binary coding for saving data. From the ideogram to the signifier to the binary language, not only human ways of communication but also ways of socialisation have evolved. This Information Revolution has enabled a worldwide flow of information, products and people all of which have resultantly contributed to the idea of a global community and a global market.
Taking under the microscope, the way people living in the US interact with one another or/and across the world would be helpful in understanding the extent to which the ICTs have improvised the ways modern societies live. Statista, a leading provider of market and consumer data, maintains that almost eighty percent of internet users in the US have a profile on social media while the number of social network users is expected to increase from one-hundred-and-eighty million in 2015 to two-hundred-million in 2019. After Facebook, the most widely used social media sites are Youtube, Twitter and Pinterest are some of the most popular social media sites. In terms of customer satisfaction in the US, it is Pinterest. One can confidently say that rest of the world is equally receptive to these global trends.
Sir Edward Burnett Taylor, the British anthropologist who founded cultural anthropology, in his bookPrimitive Culture (1871), under the influence of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, developed the idea of cultural evolution from primitive to modern. His definition of culture includes everything, from knowledge to laws to habits, that a man acquires from the society he lives in. His study of culture underpins not only the artistic, spiritual and moral achievements but also technological accomplishments. Interestingly, the cultural evolution has reached its pinnacle with post-industrial society that benefits from high-technology culture. The gadgets that an eager child inattentively operates today would have needed a technician for operating it a generation ago. Today technological know-how is inherited just like cultural understanding.