Special to the Sun
Every once and again, as most of us do, I reflect on bygone days with fond memories of what life was like growing up. Being a baby-boomer, a southerner, and a lover of history, I now have to fight the absolute notion that I grew up in a better, slower- paced, and more benevolent world. To be sure, I believe that the formative years I spent in the post World War II America which was then entering a golden period of growth, unique to the time, were some of the best imaginable. Long gone are the days when the youth of my generation spent summer nights on screened back porches, sat at the feet of adults and received the benefit of a wealth of information through the art of observation and listening.
All too often, the youth of today are relying on electronic devices to provide their information. The quality, content, and suitability of information exchange is harder to control. Experts tell us that the attention spans of today’s generation are becoming shorter and that learning is now best facilitated by transmission of short bursts of information. Talking to machines has given us new short-form buzz words and abbreviations, replete with incomplete sentence structure. Recognition and appreciation of the beauty of interpersonal communication attendant with the writing of well-composed letters and the enjoyment derived from reading and savoring great literary works appear to be in jeopardy.
When I find myself getting too dogmatic on the subject, I have to put myself in check by reminding myself of my father’s perspective. My father was a wise man, but even he could not help but remark (to paraphrase) “Things just aren’t what they used to be.”
With every passing generation, technological advances impact us in virtually every aspect of our lives. Without question, the evolution of technological advancement brings growing pains and decided advantages and disadvantages. My personal goal is to become more cognizant of and conversant with current technological advancement, which some have labeled as “the next industrial revolution.”
I can clearly remember, on the day of my grandmother’s death, reflecting on the vast changes that occurred technologically during her lifetime. She lived to be one hundred and three years old. During that span of time, she was able to observe the first Model T automobile and was able to also watch, in real time, Neil Armstrong become the first man to set foot on the moon. My point is, that while we can become resistant to change, sometimes for valid reasons, we should never fail to understand the importance and inevitability of technological advancement and the benefits to be derived therefrom. It seems to me, the question before my generation should be, “What’s next and what can I expect from the next two or three decades of human history so that I can effectively participate in it?” It only takes a few minutes to observe the ease with which the five year old of today operates a hand held electronic device to make my point.
I believe acquiring an interest in technological developments and adding articles and books on the subject to one’s current reading list is essential. I am daily learning about the reality of technological advancements, only heretofore dreamed about, in the imaginations of Walt Disney creators. Examples abound. I have read about the science of robotics transforming the world of science. New surgical techniques with micro-precision, improving the outcome and recovery times for patients, who in the past have suffered the residual effects from far more invasive procedures. Companies like Intuitive Surgical, Inc. and Medronic, to name a few, are on the vanguard of development of these advanced machines. Panasonic Corporation has created a prototype robot to pick tomatoes. A robot is currently under development that can transpose and play music. Still another genre of robot has the capability of destroying destructive species of animals. Illustrative is a device designed to travel underwater to capture lionfish from coral reefs, the delicate ecology of which is being imbalanced by their invasive numbers.
Science has progressed significantly over the last few years in the development of drone technology. These are pilotless, electronically or radio controlled devices which can perform a multitude of tasks. Nano drones, the size of an average insect, are being used to conduct spy operations, to photograph tough to access remote areas, and to perform military surveillance operations. Larger drones are used for life saving search and rescue missions, aerial photography, mapping and surveying, and cargo and package delivery. One such Australian Company has developed a prototype life guard to assist in rescue efforts for drowning swimmers. I have even read about a drone fish which has been accepted as a member of a swimming school of zebra fish, that is being utilized to study the variables which cause the synchronized movement of large numbers of schooling fish.
Especially promising are advancements in the area of genetics. While I believe those developments will present challenges to fundamental and sacrosanct abiding principles of truth by which we are called by our creator to live, the promising prospects for meaningful treatment of diseases, including cancer, now are within the foreseeable reach of modern day science.
I now speak to an endeavor for which I have spent my life’s work; the practice of law. Within the practice of law, as in all other fields of endeavor, there is a sea change occurring. Attorneys practicing in a modern world must know far more about technology than when I began my practice, over forty years ago. Lawyers must master the ethics of communication. Email and text messaging are now a fact of daily communications. Careless communication via the internet can have the effect of an inadvertent violation of the attorney client privilege. A lawyer may also cause an inadvertent sharing of a client’s privileged medical information. It only takes one mistaken key stroke to release the information into cyber-space, potentially forever. Lawyers must now consider the purchase of cyber liability insurance which heretofore was never contemplated. New legal causes of action are being developed by creative lawyers, involving such issues as business disparagement, libelous exchange of information, violations of federal law by release of private information, and trademark infringement to name but a few. Our court system is beginning to grapple with these legal issues created by internet messaging and potential violations of privacy.
In conclusion, let me be one of the first to champion the benefits that our society will enjoy over the next decades due to technological change. Change is inevitable and there will be significant adjustments that those of my aging generation will need to make. This will require proactive effort. In so doing, it is my hope we will boldly impart wisdom in the reaffirmation and preservation of those worthy precepts and guiding principals which have served us so well during our lifetimes.