Is the World Really Getting Smaller?

A pretty widely regarded "truth" is that modern communications technology has reduced, and continues to reduce, the size of the world.  The "Small World Experiment"  , incorrectly attributed as the source of "six degrees of separation", arguably measures this.
But wait, does reducing the path length between people make the world smaller?  It makes the path length smaller — a tautology — but is that a useful measure of size?
How big was the world for early humans?  Sure, the world was really huge in terms of communications and travel, but damn small in terms of the percentage of the world these early people were aware of.
For example, the peoples of Europe didn’t even know about North America 500 years ago.  Today our economies and politics are nearly welded at the hips.  Awareness?  Hell, concern!
The "right" way to talk about the "size of the world" is not geographic or even person-to-person path length but in information theoretic terms.
With each advance in communications and travel technology, points progressively further away from your physical location become increasingly meaningful and accessible.  This does not increase the total information in the universe — North America did not get created by the Europeans discovering it — but it does dramatically increase the data that is in meaningful relation to own lives.
From time to time I grab my laptop, drop on the couch and browse for bands visiting Atlanta.  Finding one I like, I buy a ticket from half-way across the country from someone I’ve never met and schedule a trip downtown for 3 hours of fun — a trip that would require a two day ride by horse just 5 generations ago.
Or the personal vignette that spurred this post …
In updating my LinkedIn network — by itself a sign of an expanded information world — I found an ex-client from 2 years ago;  I invited him; I checked his connections and this marketing contact did NLP training with one of my own teachers — a person I have not had contact with since 1994.
Technology compresses both time and space — into the space between our ears — because that is where our image of the universe actually lives.  As the world "gets smaller", our heads get correspondingly bigger.
Smaller world?  No way.  The world grows geometrically larger as Moore’s law continues to be realized.

Plastic, Silicon, and NanoTubes

In the movie The Graduate, we were told that the future belonged to plastics, which indeed, have revolutionized much of packaging and product exterior design.

The invention of the silicon semiconductor gate changed pretty near everything not changed by plastic. Nearly all electronic devices today exist only because of the joint impacts of plastic and silicon.

And the 2004 equivalent to plastics is Carbon nanotubes. These rolled-up sheets of carbon atoms form tubes as small as ten Hydrogen atoms in diameter. Laboratory demonstrations have created marvels such as high speed, high density digital cameras, flexible video displays, and microscopic bio-sensors that can detect single viruses. A decade or more from now we will see portable electronic products based on a combination of nano and semiconductor technology that would be impossible to implement today.

But that prognostication is easy. More than this, we will see products that we can not today even imagine.

I can’t wait.