How the Digital Renaissance is Transforming Our World
We are in the midst of a modern-day “Renaissance” period.
This time of great economic, cultural, and intellectual expansion is evidence of the successes taking place around us.
From advanced technology to groundbreaking art, movements and inventions that shape how we live— the developments seen today are just as significant as those during the original Renaissance.
What an exciting time it is to be alive!
With computer chips transforming our world, more people connected than ever through social media, and trade utilizing unprecedented level of exchange—there is much to celebrate about this New Renaissance.
It’s time for us to recognize its power and marvel at what humans can create together.
And even though periods of progress may bring instability and cause radicalism and violence, let us savor these moments—moments that remind us of our potential for growth and prosperity.
The New Renaissance: A Story of Unprecedented Progress and Devastating Consequences
We are certainly living in a period of remarkable progress, with advances in science and culture that have been likened to the Renaissance centuries ago.
But just like the Renaissance of the past, our current New Renaissance is also accompanied by significant destruction and suffering.
Even though we’ve seen increased cooperation between countries and economies through organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is still a huge environmental toll associated with this historic development.
The world has become increasingly globalized, but the cost of this progress has been the depletion of natural resources as well as exploitation due to mass production and human consumption.
We’re seeing devastating effects on ecosystems around the world, leading to species extinction and rising sea levels.
In many parts of the globe, this unchecked growth has led to conflict between governments, forcing displacement and generating an untold amount of human suffering.
It’s important that we recognize both sides of our current renaissance; while it has undeniably made life significantly easier for many people around the world, it’s also created serious problems for many others which must be addressed if we’re going to create a better future for everyone.
The World Has Changed Tremendously in the Last 25 Years: A Comparison to the Fifteenth-Century Printing Press Revolution
The Age of Discovery saw an amazing transformation in our world, just as we can see one now.
25 years ago our current politics, economy and society were practically unrecognizable from today’s – this transformation is one with stunning parallels to the Renaissance age.
A great example was the invention of the printing press that changed the way people communicated during a single lifetime.
Johann Gutenberg invented movable type and created the world’s first major printed book, Gutenberg’s Bible – leading to 15-20 million books being printed by the time a person born in 1450s had reached her fiftieth birthday!
This easily outstripped the number of books written since ancient Roman times by all European scribes combined.
In much the same way, the internet has radically transformed our interactions with each other and the world since 1988 when fiber-optic cables where installed.
It has already connected three billion users in 2015 which marked arguably history’s fastest mass adoption of a technology – connecting humanity together like never before.
For comparison, if Facebook were a country it would have 1.5 billion inhabitants making it Earth’s largest nation!
What makes this even more impressive is that 2 random users on this social media platform are less than 4 degrees of separation apart – they likely know someone who knows someone else who knows one of their Facebook friends!
New technology radically changed worlds both at the start of and during Renaissance -the same thing is happening now with remarkable parallels that demonstrate how cycles tend to repeat themselves in history.
The World is Better Than Ever: How Global Interconnectedness and Improved Medical Care Have Led to Dramatic Improvements in Quality of Life
The Age of Discovery has ushered in a new renaissance which has meant better outcomes in health and wealth than ever before in history.
Breath-taking progress has been made: life expectancy has risen by almost two decades since 1960, the number of people living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day dropped by over half, and the total deaths of children under 5 years old due to infectious diseases have significantly gone down since 1990.
This immense growth is largely due to an interconnected global economy and improved medical care.
Trade has created more jobs for poorer populations, and competition has lowered prices and improved quality of goods and services, thus aiding small businesses and households on a budget.
Additionally, advances in public sanitation, clean water access, hygiene practices, pest control, vaccines and drugs, together with greater public budgets towards these fields have minimized the mortality rate from infectious diseases among young children immensely.
This exceptional Age of Discovery we have begun provides great hope for future generations as people all around the world are now provided an even chance at a healthy and wealthy life like never before seen.
The Wealth Gap Widens During the First and Second Renaissance: The Rich Get Richer, and the Poor Get Poorer
The progress made during the first Renaissance was certainly impressive, but it’s important to remember that not everyone benefitted from this progress equally.
This became especially apparent as income inequality rose dramatically during this period, with the top 5-10% of Europeans controlling between 40 and 50% of the town’s total wealth by 1550.
What’s more, the lower half of earners actually felt a decrease in wages.
Female workers such as nannies didn’t experience any kind of real increase in their wages between 1480 and 1562, yet faced much higher prices for necessities like food and shelter.
Then there are those outside Europe who had it even worse: an estimated 150 thousand Africans were enslaved between 1450 and 1550 due to colonialism, while entire populations in America were destroyed as a result of European discovery efforts.
Today’s world isn’t much different.
In 2010, 388 individuals owned more wealth than the poorest half of society and by 2015 this number had decreased (albeit slightly) to 62 billionaires holding more wealth than 3.6 billion people combined – evidence that progress may be rapid, but it’s often not evenly distributed either then or now.
The Interconnectedness of the Modern World Increases Both Possibilities and Risks
The Renaissance period produced some wonderful advances and adaptations in the world.
For example, population centers increased and grew more dense, creating a new kind of interdependence.
However, this population concentration coincided with a devastating global problem – the spread of infectious diseases.
One such example is syphilis, which surfaced in Italy in 1495 and quickly spread throughout Europe and the world.
In just five years we had an unstoppable disease on our hands wreaking havoc among populations concentrated in urban areas.
What’s really interesting is that these conditions which led to the swift spread of syphilis are also seen today.
Air travel and international investments connect people much faster than ever before – but they also provide ideal conditions for potential risks to materialise at a accelerated rate.
Take the Ebola epidemic of 2013-2015 where over 28,000 cases and 11,300 deaths were reported – or consider the 2008 financial crisis that started off in the United States but was felt around the globe.
Even cyber attacks can be committed from anywhere in the world, yet their impacts are felt globally too – with no one being safe from its effects.
The Danger of Radicalism in a Rapidly Evolving World and the Hope of a Brighter Future
The changing dynamics of the world during the Renaissance created a climate of fear, doubt and insecurity, which proved to be ripe ground for radical messages proclaiming doom and encouraging extreme action.
We can see this in play with Girolamo Savonarola who, in 1497, rallied his followers to gather evidence of the strange era they found themselves in, such as immoral books, nude artworks, perfumes, heretical texts and unique musical instruments – which were subsequently all burned in Florence’s central piazza in what is now known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.
A similar atmosphere of fear and doubt exists today from radical messages promoting hate and extremism.
We can cite examples such as Islamic State, fringe Christian denominations with fundamentalist views around race, gender and sexuality; Orthodox Israeli Jews targeting those that are different; or neo-Nazi associations resurging around the world.
All these instances point to a rapidly changing environment compounded by deepening inequality that leaves many without bearings who seek refuge in dangerous ideologies.
Therefore it’s evident that fear and doubts fuelled by drastic shifts in society are sparked across centuries fostering radicalism both today as it did during The Age of Discovery.
The Power of Progress: Transforming the World with Invisible Good
Innovation and genius can have profound effects on society, paving the way for a brighter future.
It’s true that there are downsides to these advances; it can be frightening to consider how quickly things can change.
But despite this, much good has come from them.
Looking at examples of modern-day technology show just how dramatic of an impact they can have.
Twenty years ago, almost no one would have guessed that Earth-like planets were so common in our galaxy; with advancements in telescopes, computers, and even internet connection among astronomers, we now know better.
Similarly, when one million people log onto Wikipedia with no money being made to GDP—an immeasurable amount of good is still provided thanks to the encyclopedia’s wealth of education and entertainment.
This goes to show just how powerful innovation and genius can be – even when it comes to something seemingly intangible like knowledge or time saved.
So although these phenomena may come with downsides, there’s still immense potential for tremendous good if we put our minds together and strive for a better future!
The Age of Discovery by James Roberts is a powerful book that encourages us to reflect on how our modern world compares to the Renaissance of five centuries ago.
Through vivid storytelling and historical analysis, it shows how creativity and innovation were accompanied by destruction and suffering.
Ultimately, the key take-away from this book can be summed up in one phrase: history does indeed repeat itself.
By viewing today’s world with a historical perspective, we gain insight into its complex dynamics and discover new ways of responding positively to our current challenges.