By Peter Baily • 06 Sep 2012
It is amazing the transition which an ‘always on’ internet connection has made to the way in which we live and work. I grew up in a time when Dial-up was in its heyday and lifting a telephone receiver to be greeted with an ear full of static was a daily occurrence and source of strange reassurance. Data flow in those days was much like an unsteady trickle of a stream in the middle of a hot summer. You were just grateful that it was there, but it was never quite enough. In stark comparison is now possible to maintain a mobile through-put of 50 times that connection while grabbing a coffee, browsing a newspaper and getting the train to work.
Aside from the evident revolution in information which has seeped into the lives of Geeks and technophobes alike, what other consequences has this had on the way we feel about the world? Well one side effect of such prolific communication, is in fact the significant implication of being disconnected. I know a chap who is no stranger to technology, a Doctorate here and a database farm there, he is more than capable of diving into the river of constant connectivity. But he is one of a handful of conscientious objectors who declines to carry a mobile phone. Aside from the obvious problems with arranging a last minute alteration to the drinking venue for the evening, this inherently makes a public statement to the noisy chatter of an interconnected planet. “Not today thanks, I am going dark”.
The concept of declining communications seems to be largely reserved for the unceremonious rejection of cold callers or the weary removal of a mailing subscription. The idea of being separated from the binary comfort blanket of our connected web is otherwise largely avoided. So much so, that the loss of a Smartphone or the disconnection of home or Business broadband is often a cause for bewilderment or even a complete loss of focus.
With last months Ofcom approval of the first UK 4G provider, data speeds to mobile devices are set to rocket to levels which make Dial-up look like a slow drip subsumed by a torrential downpour. The UK as a nation may on average be behind with broadband network speeds, however a subservient position to somewhere like the fibre-clad nation of Korea doesn’t stop us from embracing the ‘always on’ culture wherever we go.
So looking to the future, it seems likely we will continue to increase our investment in being digitally connected for successful social and Business lives. Whether it is good for our health or for our privacy is another debate entirely, but what is clear is that there isn’t much comfortable middle ground between online and offline in our current society.
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