The ticket office at Westminster tube station is now a Greggs bakery. You don’t need tickets anymore to travel on the underground. Some years ago Oyster cards were invented which most Londoners quickly came to use – just touching the blue card against the sensor on the entry and exit barrier. Now, Oyster cards are becoming obsolete. You just have to touch your bank card against the entry and exit points and your account is automatically charged.
I wanted to buy some books for a grandson this week. I wondered when I would have time to get into Waterstones, either in Plymouth or London? Then I remembered: Amazon! I have an Amazon account which I rarely use. I ordered the books within two minutes from my laptop. They arrived two days later.
I never cease to marvel at the way that technology changes the way we live – and always has done since the invention of the wheel. Nowadays the pace of change is greater and every new wave of progress brings with it not just a glorious upside, but a challenging downside. Internet shopping is hammering our high streets. Internet banking opens us up to identity theft and cyber-fraud on a scale of which most of us are unaware. The smart phone is A-Maz-Ing but already threatens teenage mental health.
Future governments will need to regulate these new technologies to ensure that harm is kept to a minimum. But this is challenging in a global world and you sense that government is always one step behind. Parents will have to enforce discipline on the use of these wonderful products, but this is tough when most of us do not understand these power products.
I attended a gathering of talented year 8 pupils at Hele School on Friday brought together by the Brilliant Club. This seeks bright pupils to lift horizons and achieve their potential. I was blown away by the talent and eloquence of these youngsters and the written work they had produced.
My point is this: it will be extraordinarily challenging in the future to mesh ever-more-amazing technology into human society without undermining who and what we are. These youngsters will relish that challenge and rise to it.
We oldies will never be able to help them to maximise their digital knowledge – but we can pass on timeless values – respect for all, the importance of secure relationships, and loving your neighbour. That is our job: pass it on.