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FOR BETTER OR WORSE, THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED

The wires are slowly disappearing from my home and office.

My daily planner, calendars and photographs automatically update themselves on my smartphone and computer. My devices no longer need me to connect them to a computer or to each other with cords in order to sync information or to download media. Today an invisible “cloud” takes care of that. And that data is never lost — everything we write, search for and read is recorded. For better or worse, even our most private communications have become a permanent part of our profiles.

Twenty years ago, the notion of the cloud, and its ability to track colossal amounts of data, was science fiction — something that we might see in the distant future. But the future has arrived, and we have to start adapting.

The most profound change we face is that we can’t trust that anything we do or say online will remain private. And the end of privacy and confidentiality doesn’t just apply to private citizens, but also to companies and government bodies. Just look at the headlines. Edward Snowden, a former government contractor, recently revealed that the U.S. government has been monitoring Americans’ telephone and Internet usage. And in May, The Associated Press announced that the federal government had seized some of its reporters’ telephone records, as investigators tried to find the person responsible for leaking information about a terrorist plot in Yemen.

We now live in a transparent world where information flows freely, but this also means that our communications are exposed and vulnerable. With this in mind, my new rule for using technology is this: If I really want something to remain private, I don’t say it on my cellphone, I don’t text it and I don’t type it out in an email. When I’m speaking on the phone or emailing a friend, and especially when I’m communicating with a news source, I always assume that somebody, somewhere, is listening to the conversation or reading the message.

Of course, this is not to say that electronic communications and information sharing should be avoided. The Web is transforming how we relate to the world, and we simply have to change along with it.

College courses, for instance, are available to anyone, as long as students are willing to learn at home. Why should people pay $50,000 a year to attend classes in giant lecture halls when they can watch online whenever they want for free or for a nominal fee? These days, lectures given by professors from Harvard, Oxford, Yale and other universities are available online in every field, from science to literature. Yes, personal interaction and live academic debates are better, but long-distance learning is changing the world, as the world’s leading academics teach thousands of students at once.

There have been massive changes in the entertainment industry, too. Ratings for major broadcast television networks in the United States have dropped as viewers are poached by cable channels — especially those that have focused on producing more challenging and daring serialized dramas. These have become popular as the Internet has enabled consumers to decide when, how and where they watch the episodes.

On the downside, though, technology is also increasing consumers’ hunger for the new. People want to wear whatever they just saw their favorite stars wearing on a TV show or the red carpet, or streaming online from the runways of London and New York, and they want it now. This forces manufacturers to produce clothes even more quickly, and as the turnover in stores has sped up, these clothes have become disposable.

In order to stay competitive, companies rely on workers who only earn a few dollars a day in nations like China, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Vietnam. The collapse of a textile factory in Bangladesh earlier this year, which killed more than 1,000 workers, reflects the pressure on multinational brands to produce cheap, modern clothes at any price.

My grandfather Miguel was born in 1900. The changes to his world, like electricity, cars and planes, arrived slowly, and he had time to adapt. I, on the other hand, feel like I must adapt almost daily to new innovations: I now start my car without a key, I now hold today’s news in the palm of my hand (literally). Maybe one day, my children will decide to modify their DNA so that they won’t suffer from the same medical conditions that their grandpa Miguel (whom they didn’t get to know) suffered from.

For better or worse, the future is here. It arrives daily.

By Jorge Ramos Avalos.

(jun 05, 2013)

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

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