I'm a strange man for strange reasons. There's nothing more fascinating to me than the image of sitting outside on a cool evening drinking ice-water, watching stars sprinkle onto the Belt of Venus, listening to cicadas right alongside a companion robot. A social robot like Pepper could fill that niche for me.
Yet when I tell people about this, many find it comical, if not jarring. Robots like Pepper look a tad creepy. They seem out of place. Though their abilities are limited, Pepper still seems like something from the future because humans still have a natural psychological propensity to imbue intelligence into things that resemble us or act intelligently. It's an artificially intelligence humanoid robot! And because of science fiction, we tend to place these things mostly inside high-tech laboratories, on the streets of a megacity, and maybe slaving on a farm. It's almost a waste to think of sending one of these things out into the boonies just so some random Redditor can spend time with it listening to bugs calling for mates.
Yet that jarring sense that I'm using tomorrow's toys for yesterday's joys is nothing new. People experienced the same fascinating clash throughout the entirety of the Industrial Revolution. This was the root of the Romanticist literary and art movements. The contrasting worlds set the mood for the Edwardian Age, the Belle Epoque, and the Interwar period. It was the inability to recognize that old traditions no longer functioned in the modern world that led to the savagery of the First World War.
World Wars 1 and 2 are extremely fascinating to me because this period was the peak of the pre-digital industrial world. You saw advancements in science, in engineering, in the human condition itself as things our ancestors took for granted fell before our casual experimentation with electromagnetism, nuclear engineering, genetics, and so much more.
I actually have a whole "Saved" section full of geriatric Redditors talking about life in the past and historians laying out how change came so rapidly that it would make modern Singularitarians blush. How it was a world of seeming contradictions:
How most of the world lived in extreme poverty under kingdoms or their equivalents (imperial autocracies, sultanates, khanates, princely states, etc.) and the idea that there was some segment of society that ruled because God willed it was treated as a natural norm. How the average person plowed without machinery on little plots of land. How women were actively discouraged from gaining an education or finding jobs outside of wartime. How even in the '50s it was common in the US South to see horse-drawn carriages in small-town streets, to read old literature by candlelight, to only eat food grown by your family or someone your family knows, to create utensils out of spare metal parts and recycle them endlessly because you didn't have any culture of disposability, to give birth in the homestead because it was not common for hospitals to have such wards.
A time when some people had never seen artificial light (that is, not from the sun or by fire). Yet also a time when mankind learned how to set sail in the skies, ride in motorized carriages (nowadays shortened to 'cars'), even discover that something as simple as washing your hands kept surgery patients alive.
When the world was industrialized but there were still pockets where civilization had not meaningfully changed since the Renaissance or even before, when there were still nomadic tribes living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle unchanged since before the Sumerians while urban hipsters played with cameras and mechanical gadgets.
When peasants were still a large class in the world and were so removed from whatever was going on in life that they had no reason to believe the 21st century would be any different from the 19th, all the while the Victorian Internet arose across the West to allow for instant communication among different nations.
When archers and swordsmen were still highly valued parts of Western and Eastern militaries alongside machine gunners and air forces (I believe the last cavalry charge took place in World War II?).
When racism was a beast clashing between those who cared about national ethnicity more like the Athenians and Han vs. those who saw like-skin color as the only requirement (ironically a more 'progressive' form of racism only possible in modern times). When conception of a child was still seen as a miracle rather than an understood scientific process, but psychology was in its infancy as we realized how the brain affected behavior rather than myths of humors and astrological mysticism.
When rockets broke out of the Earth's atmosphere and rural folk rode to their relatives on horseback to hear about it.
When nostalgic scenes of young boys and girls catching frogs in streams coexisted with futurists marveling at wirelessly driven cars and televisions gaining color.
That era, from the 1890s to the 1950s, was the maturation of the Industrial Revolution, when industrialism bore most of its fruit. For the most part, that era of contradictions has passed as the fruits of the Industrial Revolution spread to all corners of the planet (though in unequal amounts). Nowadays, even hunter-gatherer tribes use modern technology and wear modern clothing and retain their lifestyle mostly out of tradition; anomalies like the Sentinelese are just that. It's so rare to see people riding on horseback as their primary means of transportation that it can reach the top of /r/TodayILearned just to learn about it and they tend to be compared to the Amish.
And that's the truth of it. What was once pockets of the old ways coexisting with modernity shrunk to literal motes of quaintness and tradition. These won't go away, but they will be joined by what we call modernity soon enough.
You see, the Digital Revolution is a fundamentally different event entirely, one we're still trying to recognize in full. Industrialism was when we began supplanting human muscle and automating machinery with analog clockwork.
Digitalism, on the other hand, began the rise of cognitive automation. It is my firm belief that, if we never invented digital computing or mass produced Turing-complete machines, societal evolution would have stagnated sometime around 1960-1970. As great as our machines were and as much progress in the sciences as we made, it was all low-hanging fruit that we could reach.
There are more fruits hanging above and we cannot reach them without digital technology. They require skills only a handful of savants and polymaths could ever realize, and there are many more skills no human or biological lifeform can ever learn or utilize. Fruits we still managed to reach because of the Digital Revolution.
It's been nearly a century since the start of the Digital Revolution, but we've already entered the maturation period.
And because of this, we're beginning to see familiar contradictions arise. You can see it argued on /r/Futurology all the time, reports coming out endlessly that jobs will be sacrificed to the machines. And the familiar refrain is "But the robots will create more jobs in response!" The horses analogy popularized by CGP Grey is fine by itself, but I am more reminded by how established-industrialists and traditionalists a century ago said "X is a passing fad". It wasn't just cars. There were predictions that electric lamps, television, radio, even nuclear physics were just fads.
And if you want to go old-school, people in centuries prior claimed that industrial machines themselves were a cute novelty but "we had more than enough manpower"; printed books were neat but "oral storytelling will regain its place soon enough"; guns were an unusual and egalitarian development but "they pale in comparison to a fine archer" (something I touched upon earlier, how there were military officials as late as the Franco-Prussian War who hoped that archers would re-replace riflemen due to the inaccuracy of guns of the day).
Today, its honestly no different when people look at the latest in robotics, machine learning, and evolutionary algorithms and say "It looks cool, but there'll always be jobs for people". We don't recognize that it's the limitations of modern technology that allow us to be so confident in oru doubts until we are old and reflecting on how we ever believed anything but the new normal.
I sincerely believe that, over the next two to three decades, more coexisting contradictions will come about. Things such as using smartphones and physical computers while cyberkinetic wireless connections to the internet exist; writing books and making music and drawing cartoons when it's possible to synthesize art; visit physical stores when drones can deliver to you directly and fabricators/3D printers can allow you to download whatever you need; create multimedia experiences for emotional impact when direct brain-to-brain emotional communication is possible; work at your uncle's little restaurant while fully-automated mines are established on other planets to pre-empt human exploration; visiting concerts of your favorite band while others use virtual reality to see concerts of bands that have long since split and passed on, or even bands and musical scenes that never existed until the computer synthesized it a few hours ago; spraying distilled chemicals to freshen the air in your room when neural stimulation can let you re-experience any sensation; playing with cats and dogs while we resurrect long-extinct species like mammoths and perhaps even our sisters like the Neanderthals or genetically modifying any animal directly to make it domesicated and docile no matter how reptilian and hostile it may be in the wild; and, going back to my original tale, sitting outside in a plastic chair enjoying an evening alongside a robotic companion.
The internet was the first big, juicy fruit of the Digital Revolution that impacted your life. It was and remains proto-telepathy, the planet becoming aware of itself. It is now developing into an actual space of political and social development and has to be taken seriously by those who once cast it aside as a distraction. And to be fair, it was once a distraction. Technology has not yet augmented us; it distracts us. Human enhancement still lies ahead, but it's very close and the Internet is something of a test-run to see how we can handle constant exposure to others.
We no longer live in a world where history is mostly written through the posh dialects of aristocrats and clerics with society left to be viewed through their eyes and minds; we now see that the world is full of meaty, greasy, hypersexual, xenophobic, childish, and yet still empathic and intelligent apes and always has been. Right now, we still mostly look at the "Old Days" and see people of culture and civility, not realizing that they were just as crass as we are but 99% of people were illiterate and the 1% who weren't wrote only what they thought was important to know. The Internet equalized all of that.
But it hasn't actually changed anything. If 4chan existed in the Roman empire, it wouldn't fundamentally be any different than how it is now. But we are on the cusp of an age of humans and non-humans who discuss things and share knowledge in ways many can't grasp.
And in a manner, this makes modern society all that much more exciting to watch develop.