Since the nineteenth century, our species has felt itself to somehow be either on the cusp of, or in the midst of, a “new era”, one somehow qualitatively different than any previous phase of our development. For me, what’s really interesting is how we’ve defined that.
The general consensus has focused upon the “power of technology”, but until the rise of my generation, that power was characterized in very Nietzchean will-to-supremacy terms, namely, as the power of mastery and destruction. That makes sense if you look at the historical conditions: from the birth of team power and the automatic machine gun, to the rise of atomic energy and mass production, previous generations, including (or especially) that of our parents, have lived under the shadow of instrumentalization and possible extinction — ironically, human-induced destruction, but technologically-enabled, if not technologically-driven destruction nonetheless.
With my generation, though, there’s been a revolution in the revolution, because for us the power of technology has meant something much more different. Yes, there’s still the instrumentalization — one quick glance at all my peers slaving away in hypercapitalism’s knowledge economy cubicles or developing world sweat shops evidences that — not to mention the continuing threat of extinction, à al-Qaeda and dirty bombs — but somehow this isn’t as emphasized as much among us. Instead, we stand in awe of a very different kind of technological power: connection and communication.