Spy cameras were probably never this good. Saturday I’ll help teach a class in iPhone Photography, but I’ll take creative license and talk about how to take pictures with tiny cameras. I’ll take license partly because tiny cameras are everywhere, not just in iPhones; and partly because I don’t have an iPhone. But I do have a camera in my laptop , one in my ruggedized flip phone, and two in my iPad. Dig them out, put them together, and they’d probably all fit in a 35mm film canister. It is easy to forget how far we’ve come, partly because in so many ways we haven’t changed.
Where would Facebook be if tiny cameras weren’t everywhere? Folks would carry and upload photos from point and shoots, but they’d have to remember to carry yet one more device. A camera in a phone sounded preposterous, and then someone took a picture of their lunch, someone else caught a gaffe, someone else focused on a kitten. The Big Brother we worried about in George Orwell’s 1984 has become an infinity of little brothers eager for a snapshot that will garner the most Likes.
A walk without a camera, a phone, a GPS receiver and a moving map display is considered roughing it. We’ve accepted these things into our lives because they have become so convenient that they’re straddling the line between necessity and luxury. Of course, I know some folks who would be more comfortable carrying a sketch pad, a notebook, and a compass and a sextant. Yes. They do exist. (The sextant part is probably more prevalent because there are a lot of sailors around here.) Take a look at my bicycle ride across America and my walk across Scotland . I relied on technology, but even now my approach looks archaic. No itinerary? No idea if the next town had a place to stay? No idea if the road is even complete?
I work almost every day. Since July 4th I’ve taken off about one day per month. A close friend who is keeping close track thinks I’ve only taken two days off: Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Could be. I’ve been too busy to notice. As part of my work day I pull together news feeds for New Road Map Foundation (values-based personal finance) and the History of Computing in Learning and Education Virtual Museum (what happened when computers entered the classroom). That means I read a lot of news. Thank you Facebook, Twitter, and Google News. Every day I delve into the faults and solutions of economy and education. Being human, we talk about the faults far more than we talk about the solutions. Such constant exposure can be tiring; so, I try to focus on the enlightening.
Our economic system seems to have many fundamental flaws. President Obama spoke about Economic Mobility, or the lack thereof. It was refreshing to hear him talk about some of the systemic issues that have gone beyond ideology. I rarely listen to politicians, but he held my attention for a 48 minute speech. Wealth and income inequity have increased to the point that they are self-accelerating and possibly creating a new class culture, which was one of the reasons the colonies revolted against England. How far have we come? The good news is that the President is acknowledging the situation. The sad news is that we may be back where we started over 200 years ago.
Education is in disarray. As Ken Robinson talked about, education is fundamentally out of synch with modern needs. What had been a systematized approach that worked well in the Industrial Revolution, does not mesh with a knowledge based economy which doesn’t operate on fixed schedules and which relies on businesses that must live by very short technology cycles. Teaching and learning are no longer centered on the instructor, and no longer end upon graduation. Learn a skill today and tomorrow it is a few percent closer to obsolescence. Fortunately, learning doesn’t have to be coupled to a teaching schedule thanks to computers and the Internet – and everyone who uploaded encyclopedias-worth of content.
Put the economy and education together and two old models look ridiculously out of date. Put two new models together, and there are more than two to pick from, and maybe something will fit. We don’t know. But we can hope whatever pair we pick is preferable to what it replaces.
My worries about the world can get me down. Yes, we’ve always had problems to face; but, until recently those problems were limited by a household or a community. Our community now includes every latitude and longitude, and is precariously constrained to one vulnerable planet.
Shudder. Quick. Get onto the next paragraph, because why would I write about personal finance if there are no solutions?
I see the way we adapt and accept change, as long as it makes sense. People are hunting for solutions to economy and education: alternative currencies, tiny houses, sharing economies – and – homeschooling, flipped classrooms, MOOCs. We humans are marvelous at finding new ways to do things. Somehow we’ve always found solutions, and sometimes didn’t even realize the problems they would solve (and others they would cause). Computers exist because someone developed the math of logic, and someone else developed a semi-conductor. The Industrial Revolution existed because someone figured out the power of steam, and someone else found a better way to make steel. Take it back far enough and the species probably survived because someone learned how to hunt and someone else learned how to cook.
I’d love it if the first real hunter was a woman and the first real cook was a man. But, no one was taking pictures back then, unless you think the cave drawings weren’t subject to artistic license.
The world may be falling apart. Our collective consciousness may be transcending our problems. I don’t know. But I do know that I’ll teach a class about tiny cameras that were initially ridiculed, and I’ll wonder what surprise will come along that will carry us somewhere unexpected and better. How far can we go?