WIRELESS

We're born to be wireless: the last cord we were connected to was cut at birth. [Frank Sanda]

Throughout history, many things have been cultural icons, tall buildings, for example. The Normans built castles as they marched across England and cathedrals marked the advance of Christianity across Europe. Today, skyscrapers are evidence the industrial revolution has spread to every nation on Earth.

During the Age of Enlightenment, pamphlets like "Common Sense" and books like "The Origin of Species" were evidence that new ways of thinking were marching across Europe and stirring in America. Both were the result of two historical icons: the printing press and public education. Reading material is still an icon of trends and interests.

Today, the wireless revolution is the sign of the times. Over 2 billion people, one third of the Earth's population, have integrated the Internet and one or more wireless wonders into their personal and professional lives. Never before have so many people been Connected in so many ways. The time to be connected is now. It's always now so it's always time.

At home, at Starbucks or sitting in your car (you pulled off the highway, right?), you can navigate cyberspace and open virtual doors with a key word and a click. And this virtual reality is virtually free. The World of Wireless Wonders has changed the way we work and play, buy and sell, share thoughts and feelings, ask questions and find answers. E-books are changing the way we read and write books. Readers are just clicks away from their favorite authors, and authors are just clicks away from their potential readers.

We still live in a world with castles and cathedrals, horses and bicycles, radios and televisions, books, snail mail, and a phone in every home. Today's world, however, is dominated by cars and computers, fast food and skyscrapers, blogs, email and a cell phone in every hand. The wireless world is the new place to hang out. And I-Pads, I-Pods and I-Phones are everywhere and ubiquitous evidence that an I-Everything is coming soon.

But today's connectedness comes with risks. Some questions are best answered with the lengthy and painful process of trial and error, not with a keyboard and a click. The things you learn for keeps are those you discover for yourself. How many times have you tried to explain something in five minutes to your son or daughter that took you five years to understand? Words are only handles to carry the idea of something from one person to another, not the thing itself.

Other problems are the Digital Divide and Overuse, the opposite sides of a coin called Isolation. Two-thirds of the people on this planet are not connected to the Internet and therefore isolated from the advantages of access. The other third are isolating themselves from in-person relationships by spending too much time on the Internet.

How often do you see people walking together but talking to somebody else on their cell phones? Or tweeting on Twitter? Or playing a video game on their iPad? It can become an obsession, a kind of screen addiction that replaces people with a device, the real world with the cyber world.

The wireless world has other problems, such as privacy and security, but it's a powerful reminder that life can be and, not just either/or. The Web can broaden and narrow our connectedness at the same time because we can compartmentalize our interaction with like-minded people from all over the world. And E-mail can supplement face-to-face relationships.

This essay could have been subtitled "Technology Matters" because our wireless world reflects just how dependent we have become on global commerce and the Internet, cars and cell phones, refrigerators and washing machines, gas and gadgets. The modern world is traveling a one-way street called technological progress because nobody but religious fanatics want to go back to the dark ages. Technology matters.