The More Things Change…

by Jan Wright, Publisher

I can’t imagine what today’s world looks like through the eyes of a child. Virtual reality, augmented reality, drones, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles… it still sounds like science fiction. The array of technologies in our present appear indistinguishable from the futuristic dreams of the recent past.

In this issue, we highlight research and development in a wide range of areas. From biodegradable alternatives to plastic and new methods of mosquito control at the Ag Lab, to new medical treatments—and hopefully someday, a cure for cancer—at the College of Medicine, Peoria researchers are on the cutting edge of innovation.

While I report with amazement and do my best to grasp this ever-changing landscape, I also wrestle with the loss of yesterday’s workplace routine. One constant I hear and read about is the continuing need for traditional social and interpersonal skills as today’s workforce adapts to these rapid-fire changes.

Mail delivery with drones? A child born tomorrow may never grasp the concept of a human “mailman” delivering handwritten letters. A medical diagnosis from a physician one has never seen? Virtual care will only become more common.

Today’s workforce must embrace technology and change, no doubt. But as the virtual and “real” worlds continue to merge, a balance must be struck. There is beauty and satisfaction in hand-writing a note; in playing a musical instrument; in the smell, taste and texture of food and drink.

David Pilcher of Freeport Press recently discussed the importance of the real in our transient age. In the U.S., vinyl record sales have increased for 12 straight years. Sony is pressing vinyl again, nearly 30 years after it stopped. Who’s driving this trend? It’s the millennial and Gen Z generations—the so-called digital natives, Pilcher writes. “None have any reason to grasp at the past, yet they continuously find refuge in what’s classic. Perhaps there’s something about relentless change that drives all of us to find comfort in tradition.”

For years, people proclaimed that print was dead. Today, digital brands like Facebook, Pitchfork and AllRecipes are developing print content to meet audience demand. “In a world of pop-ups, it has a reassuring warmth, artfulness and simplicity that spans generations—from before everything was changing faster and faster,” Pilcher writes.

Even as we create the future, we retain the best of our past and present. Research proves that humans value physical over digital, even when the content is the same. “In this age of the temporary, print—like vinyl—has a lasting quality that transcends the news feed. And we need more of that in our lives.” iBi

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