WHEN MY GRANDFATHER was a young man in Bengal, life still revolved around agriculture—for him, and for most other people. His time was reckoned by the seasons, not office deadlines. He owned land and ponds and a big house. But it had no television, telephone, computer, or electricity. He didn’t own a car; they had been a recent invention and were extremely rare in South Asia. He never took a flight in his life.
My father saw the arrival of these technologies, but he never really took to them. He barely uses the mobile phone, and doesn’t use the computer or Internet. He stuck to the same job his entire life, in the same town. My days are completely different from my grandfather’s, and substantially different from my father’s. I am less rooted, less patient. Better informed? Yes, but perhaps not any wiser.
According to historian Eric Hobsbawm, the entire history of human civilisation is about 10,000 years, or 400 generations. I suspect the changes in everyday lives in the past three generations rival the combined total of the previous 300. The rate of change goes up every passing year.