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I was listening to Brad Paisley sing “Welcome to the Future” this morning and the song got me thinking about how much things really have changed over the course of my lifetime.  And the changes just seem to be accelerating as technology begins to meld with changing social norms to create new phenomenon that no one could have predicted.

It’s a strange concoction.

And the effects can easily be seen just by looking at the combination of a few of these.  Last year a reality show that allowed the public to vote on the talent of contestants in Britain saw a nervous and awkward woman named Susan Boyle walk onto stage.  The judges seemed to roll their eyes at her thinking what they had was yet another person who thought they had talent they did not.  She then proceeded to shock everyone with one of the most beautiful, heart-breaking performances of “I Dreamed A Dream” from “Les Miserables” that I have ever heard. 

Within hours the video of the performance had gone from broadcast television and onto the internet at popular video sites such as YouTube where it quickly gained a cult following.  The video caused a sensation worldwide and before long this unassuming woman has a CD released to rave reviews and incredible sales.

Fash forward a little less than a year to january 2010 and a 62 year old veteran with personality and confidence walks into the auditions for a similar show in Atlanta, GA.  He proceeds to perform a ridiculous, but exceptionally funny song of his creation.  Like Susan Boyle before him he is shortly all over the internet quickly racking up what has become known as the magic million pair: a million hits on YouTube and a million fans on Facebook.  Heck, even Bret Favre is chanting “Pants on the Ground” in the Viking locker room after Minnesota’s playoff victory against Dallas.

And thus, we get our first viral of 2010: “Pants on the Ground.”

In both these cases, the individuals involved would never have gotten the national, and even international, attention they are enjoying 20 years ago.  It is the advent of the reality show as an interactive medium, the internet as a content delivery system, and social networking online that have made such things possible.

And that’s just a small taste of the effect of differences in technology and societal changes have had on the rapidly accelerating landscape of every aspect of our lives from media to food.  In some ways the rapid changes are a scary thing, but the opportunities for the betterment of oneself and for participation in global communities can have positive repercussions for the future of our species. But, as I consider all the advances I find myself wondering one thing that was addresses by actor Avery Brooks in his ads for IBM.

“Where are the flying cars.  I was promised flying cars.”

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