Computer technology along with the internet has changed the world we live in. Mind you, that’s like saying fish need water, birds lay eggs, and fire is hot. We all know the internet has influenced how we work, relax, and even communicate. Yet there are many things that have been subtly changed over time.
Many different markets have undergone complete restructurings without any notice. In some cases, there has even been almost subliminal changes to how people not only learn but view knowledge in general. To fully understand this, it’s best to look at individuals that have noticed changes in their businesses, learning experiences, and, in some cases, the way they view themselves. One person who has noticed the changes is Brad Sanderson.
Businesses run differently
Sanderson has always loved automobiles, old motorcycles and vintage car culture. His passion even found him selling and trading old parts, and in some cases selling fully constructed vehicles. He had no trouble adapting to business online, but he does remember what it was like in the old days.
Back before the internet took off, Sanderson would spend hours mulling over newspaper ads, searching through junk yards, calling scrap companies, all in an attempt to find the oftentimes rare and old car parts he needed. These parts were often highly valued by vintage collectors, so in theory the work would pay off. Unfortunately, in the real-world, things don’t always work out; in many cases, parts weren’t in the condition that were advertised, deals would often go to who lived the closest, or parts just simply weren’t the right ones. He even admits that “it would take a lot of effort and hours of work, oftentimes not even paying out, and it was frustrating.”
These bad deals still happen today but now he has the entire world at his fingertips. He explains that when he first started using online services it was vastly different. “There were a lot of changes all at once. I could search all sorts of different places, immediately compare prices, look at reviews, contact people instantly, not to mention check out retails in other countries, and selling online was much easier.”
He continues to mention that, “if deals go bad it’s not as big of an issue because I didn’t waste hours physically searching.” Sanderson talks about the relative ease that online markets have provided, that he can search for specific models and make without as much hassle as before. “I can look all across the world for what I need. Gone are the days of calling up a retail store and asking if they could go search their entire inventory hoping a particular item is in stock.”
Sanderson does feel that there have been a few subtle changes in the way people do business because of the internet. One of the almost unseen changes that has occurred affects almost all markets, and it’s the ability to really know what a product or company is like.
Sanderson explains that buying and selling goods now has an open opinionated feel to it. He further states his opinion by offering the example of online feedback. “Many places offering goods have rating and review built into their online marketplace, which often influences what I’m going to buy.” He continues to point out that you don’t really get that type of feedback when purchasing conventionally in stores; “the retail experience does not include the optimized comments of others who have actually used the item. You only have the advice of one person, who is usually a salesperson trying to sell you an item.”
He feels that it can give a much more honest look at a product. Sanderson does mention he knows the existence of “trolls” and that everything must be carefully evaluated, but with the amount of voices on the internet giving information you can get a good idea about who to buy and sell to. He just feels that with so much customer feedback he can get an actual honest opinion of not only products but of individual retailers, and even what salespeople to avoid.
So, if the latest internet and computer technology has subtly and not so subtly changed how business practices work for large retails and individuals everywhere, what else could have changed without notice?
Changes in how we see ourselves and what we depend on
For Tatiana Sergio, it was how she viewed herself. Sergio first started using the internet at a young age, purchasing her first CD online at age 13 and signing up to Facebook before it was big. Now as a young adult, she has a mastery of social media, is a champion of online shopping, and has moderate success when using search engines. She, like many young adults in the modern world, has used the latest technology to stay current on important events, stay connected with her friends and family, and gain a better understanding of the world around her. This ability to always know what is happening is a way she defines herself.
She doesn’t think of herself as smarter than her parents’ generation, but she feels that newer technology has changed what it’s like to be a young person. “I have to know what’s going on all the time, not just with my friends but with politics, science, sports, literally everything,” says Sergio. She mentions that because of her increased presence online, it makes her feel like she knows more information about many different subjects. Many young people feel they have to know everything from GDP indexes to why a Bill is considered controversial to some but not to others.
Granted there is another issue at play here: a change in what young people are dependent on. In this case, it may be an over dependence on the internet. Sergio may not agree completely with this but does admit to having a memorable experience without her tech. “About two years back we had an ice storm in my town; it took out all the power and phone lines. I had no way to access the internet or use any of my devices,” says Sergio. The latest technological wonders of the 21st century may have given Sergio access to information never seen before but it may have caused her to become overly dependent.
She says that, “I literally sat in the dark for hours. I had no idea what was going on. No way to contact anyone, no way to tell if it was my whole city or just my street that was hit by the storm.” It was a shock to her realizing that despite being so connected, so knowledgeable, she was no better off than someone who had never used the internet to begin with.
This was, of course, an isolated incident. Sergio recovered from the initial shock and went out into the world and figured out what was going on. She operated like any other functional human being and was alright in the end, but the situation is still something to think about. The internet may have given people unlimited information, but without wisdom and life experience to use, it’s really no good to anyone.
One of the most powerful changes that has occurred because of computer technology isn’t its effect on our businesses, or even how dependent we are on it, but how we view knowledge. Specifically, how we treat our experts.
A change in how we view experts
Knowledge equity isn’t a term that’s often used but it’s important to know. It comes from taking the traditional meaning of equity, “the value of the shares issued by a company”, but replace “shares” with the knowledge a person has in their chosen field. An example of this would be that a doctor has a higher knowledge equity than a carpenter when it comes to medical expertise, but a carpenter has a higher knowledge equity when it comes to home repair.
In other words, it’s what makes someone an expert in their field. It’s what separates an enthusiast from a professional. The internet with modern technology is changing how people view knowledge equity.
“What people don’t understand is that more and more of our jobs involve coming in and fixing their mistakes,” says Ian Hopkins. Hopkins has had many jobs over the years from running his own freelance music studio to washing dishes, but right now as an electrical apprentice, he sees just how much internet technology has changed people’s views of experts and knowledge equity in general.
Hopkins understands that not everyone sees a how to video and truly believes that they are on the same level as a professional. He knows that the internet has done far more good than bad, even talking about how important it can be; “we’re all social creatures and being connected via computers is always going to be a benefit.”
What he wants to point out is that because of the amount of easily accessible guides on the internet, people have changed how they view the accumulation of knowledge. “People see a few how to videos and think they can just come in and do the work that tradespeople spent years training on; it can be dangerous,” says Hopkins. He continues to say that, “many of our jobs are done because someone thought they could do a better job than a trained professional. We usually come in and repair the damage, and then after cleaning up someone’s mess, we have to actual do the job,” says Hopkins.
Hopkins knows that there have always been how to videos, and that plenty of people have, and will always, spend little to no time actually learning about something before claiming their expertise. What he wants people to realize is the worth of an actual expert.
The examples listed are only a few of the many ways society has changed because of the latest advances in the field of computers. What can be taken from all this isn’t that the modern devices haven’t secretly warped our minds and made us dependent on electronic devices, but that there are many subliminal influences that are going on that have changed the way many people behave.
Good or bad, the changes aren’t going to stop. It’s up to us to think critically about all the many aspects at play; granted, these are subtle changes that happen over time so it won’t be easy but definitely worth it.