The Impact of Digital Technology on Human Life

By Bill Brown

Digital technology and its increasing prevalence have impacted human life radically in the last few decades. From the advent of the digital society, spawned by the invention of the computer and ENIAC, one of the first digital computers in 1946, to the present day, digital technology and computing have worked their way into more areas of life, from communications to finance to social interaction. You can see the impact daily in homes, schools and offices.


The Internet has brought an almost infinite amount of information right into your home and workplace. Increasingly, this information is also available to you while you are on the road as well. As a result, you have access to massive amounts of human knowledge in the time it takes to download a web page. Many jobs that were once only possible with access to research libraries or other institutions can be done now from your home, or anywhere. A company's work force has become dispersed as satellite offices can operate as if they were all centrally located. The digital technology has also created new opportunities for remote employment. These workplace changes are restructuring the face of the workforce and the possibilities for how individual lives are structured as well. There have been correspondingly great changes in retail, banking and other industries.


The ability to compress millions of transistors onto a chip the size of a fingernail has allowed the advent of portable cellular communications. Cell phones, not so long ago a luxury, are now ubiquitous, and some people use them to the exclusion of traditional land-line telephones. This makes cell phone users universally available and brings enormous communications capacity right to your pocket or purse. With it comes real or implied expectations of universal availability. It is now sometimes impossible really to get away from work, as cell phones and BlackBerrys with email capacity are functional almost anywhere on the globe. As a result, these digital communications tools make workers more productive, but they also make the employee more connected to the place of work. Work hours have increased as technological breakthroughs that were meant to save time keep many working harder and longer.


Social networking, using applications such as MySpace and Facebook, can put people in touch with each other in ways that could not have been imaged prior to digital technology. The speed and reach of contacts you can make and maintain means that everyone is findable and reachable with a quick search engine query and an email. This means you can keep up with friends that live half a globe away with ease and also means being contacted by persons you thought you might never see again.