1.I: Introduction

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Where did the world wide web come from, and, in the age of hyper-information, why can people still not agree on basic facts?  Is climate change real?  What lies behind the ascents of Presidents Putin, Xi, and Trump?  Why do we keep getting pummeled by infectious diseases and financial crises?             

Section II opens this chapter with the development of internet technology, from the world wide web to mobile big data.  Web technology is arguably the single most important development in this chapter, as cyberspace creates a whole new environment for human interaction.  Networking has transformed the lives of individuals, global institutions, and all echelons of relationships in between.

From there, Section III turns to geopolitics.  The political world map has been redrawn from the US / USSR dipole to a four-quartered world influenced chiefly by the US, EU, Russia, and China.  The Islamic world continues to command global attention as one of the least stable regions.  In this century, it has been the site of populist revolutions and the endless War on Terror.  Whatever you believe about climate change, you can’t deny that the debate looms large. 

Section IV takes AIDS as its starting point and then follows a few different intersecting themes.  The AIDS pandemic foreshadowed a series of novel viruses that shows no signs of stopping.  Propelled largely by AIDS research, genetics has exploded into one of the most revolutionary chapters in the history of science.  AIDS dampened the sexual revolution while bringing the gay civil rights movement to mainstream attention.

This chapter closes with a discussion of the gaps between today’s living generations and political parties.  Technology and norms are now changing so quickly that each generation has a fundamentally different life experience from its parent generation. When political differences are defined by our psychological responses to change, and when change is this rapid, it strains the shared reality of democracy.  The timeline tracks today’s six living generations in their various stages of life.


Continue to Section 1.II:  The Web And Mobile Computing

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