Degrees of separation

As Seth Godin has pointed out, “Lee De Forest, father of radio, was raised by people who voted for Abraham Lincoln, but he died when Bruce Springsteen was twelve years old. That’s not many handshakes from “The Battle Hymn” to “Blinded by the Light”… During that same period of time, we invented and moved on from radio, live TV, nationwide magazines, color TV, cable TV, Compuserve, Yahoo, GeoCities, The Globe, MySpace and 10,000 other steps.”

The cycles of technology are moving faster and faster with shorter lifespans.

My first cell phone was the end of my Junior year of high school. You used to get charged for every text you sent. It blows the mind of teenagers today. They simply can’t comprehend what it was like to grow up without a cell phone in their hand. That is a massive shift. Things we now use every hour of every day like cell phones, computers, the internet, data, Google and social media wasn’t ubiquitous just 10 years ago. And yet…

Yet, the degrees of separation from us today and of slavery and the Civil War is not that large. It isn’t some blip on the radar. Our history in the US with slavery is longer than the history without. (In 2022, for the first time, that won’t be true.)

It can be easy to tell ourselves a story about how “that was so long ago.” In reality, it wasn’t. So much has changed so fast that it can feel like an eternity. Part of the shift is we have more access to more information than ever before. We know longer just keep track of local events. We talk in a global scale. Amplifying the feelings of time passing by.

It easy to feel superior when we talk about the past, especially with the tools we now have at our disposal. To look something up 200 years ago, you would need to live close enough to a library and be able to read. We’ve worked really hard to remove barriers. Now, with none in the way, we get caught on the next cat video. The next click bait.

The script needs to be flipped here. When we benefit from the work of others that came before us, it is our responsibility to the next generation to do work that they will benefit from too.

The door has been opened, how many doors are you opening for others?