Digital Communications: Green Technology that’s Transforming the World and Saving the Planet

For thousands of years the main fuel of production was sweat, and the principal means of transport was the horse (and the latter only if you were rich). In a few short years, both were dramatically swept aside: one by steam and electricity, the other, a little later, by the internal combustion engine. Ever since, we tend to compare any significant innovation in productivity and manufacturing to the Industrial Revolution. This is understandable, but the comparison has become so commonplace and so carelessly applied, often to relatively insignificant innovation, as to have sapped most of its impact. In reality, few innovations have had a societal importance even remotely as disruptive as what happened in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet, there are exceptions, and one of those is happening right now. It is the broadly termed Digital Communications.

Digital Communications merge the two most important technologies of the late twentieth century and create an entire new world in the process – a virtual world. This term may sound like a cliché, but that’s because it’s frequently misused by those trying to be sensational. Yet the truth is even more sensational. The recent financial crisis focused attention on cost cutting and thus, productivity. After previous financial crises, cost cutting nearly always meant reducing production with the loss of more jobs. This time things are different: it’s quickly dawning on most politicians, businesspeople, and economists that the solution to the current world financial crisis is being found in increased productivity based on the virtual world of digital communications.

The digital communications network first seemed like just a more convenient way of doing what we have done for at least a century, i.e. using the telephone. But it soon became apparent (only recently to most people) that it had turned into a global ecosystem that far surpassed the sum of all its parts. Those parts include familiar devices like mobile phones, video, computers and GPS systems, and less familiar applications like domestic appliance control, telemetry and digital signage. Together with the Internet, they form a new global utility as important perhaps as the electricity grid, a utility that is in the process of radically changing whole aspects of our lives: how we socialize, how we work and how we manufacturing.

To compare Digital Communications to the Industrial Revolution is not an exaggeration; it might even be an understatement. This new technology has as profound a significance for every facet of the way we live as the early steam engines had for our ancestors. But unlike those old technologies, instead of spawning changes that would damage the environment for centuries, the Digital Communications revolution is not just doing the opposite, but is going a long way towards reversing that damage.