Stuff that is not real

The term ‘not real’ deserves some explanation to put this article into context.   The subject can be as light or as in-depth as we choose, but the overall idea comes down to some basic elements and some thought-provoking messages about modern day life.  I’m referring to the importance and energy we as human beings put into things or stuff that are considered ‘not real’ or non-tangible.

Every day the world and our modern day lives revolve around these things and depending on your outlook, they are things that cannot be seen, touched, held, smelt or consumed.  They are around us and play a huge part in our lives.  Without them, our lives would not function as they do now, most likely to our disadvantage.

In contrast, a definition of ‘real things’ around us could be anything from our loved ones, children, home, material things such as possessions or even money.  Electricity cannot be seen yet it could be said that electrical current and voltage can be touched!  So, what are these things I am referring to that are just ‘not real’?  Modern day examples such as telecommunication signals, infa-red, radio waves and satellite transmissions would be a good start.

There are plenty of other examples that easily pre-date the 21st Century, but let’s look at probably the most significant of them all today - the Internet.  A network of millions of computers (or servers) around the world enabling us by way of a telephone network or cable network to access vast amounts of information or data through our computer or mobile device.  The data is transmitted instantaneously through cables and wireless radio wave networks back and forth throughout the world.  Over 2.4 Billion of the world’s 7 Billion population currently use the Internet.

We know it’s out there, we use it, we depend on it and we are prepared to pay for it to provide us with access to information, entertainment, goods and services as consumers.  Then, of course, there is the dependency on the Internet by governments, corporations and businesses all over the world and what it can deliver to them.

It’s fair to say the Internet in the world today has a wider reach and impact than anything of past generations, with telecommunication coming a close second.  The modern world is now dominated by cyberspace one way or another, even though cyberspace and the Internet fall into the category of things that are ‘not real’ or non-tangible.

Having worked in the IT Services industry for nearly twenty years, I have come to understand that stuff or things in the technology world that are seen as ‘not real’ still bear a major importance on our lives where there is a human or financial factor.  Meaning, we as consumers tend to have expectations of these cyberspace services available to us such as the Internet, email, messaging and access to data.  The speed at which services are delivered to us is also important and availability when and where we need it as well as our options to change our requirements when we wish.  Businesses are operated over the Internet every day.

Staying with the Internet example, in modern life we expect such a service to be made available to us when we need it instantly.  We do not expect to turn on our PC/laptop/tablet or smartphone and wait for any given length of time for the service to appear.  We just want it to be there instantly because we need it as consumers or users to meet our needs. We need our information and services instantly at the click of a button.  This is something that wasn’t the case 25 or so years ago.  In effect, a service such as an Internet connection at home or at work is now considered as a utility that needs to be available in the same manner as electricity, gas and water.  The Internet, although cannot be seen or touched and deemed as non-tangible, is now very much a part of our day-to-day lives.  It has a relationship with tangible items such as money, goods and services.  An example being the use of the Internet to purchase a pizza or even to purchase a house.

In the financial world, the same comparisons could be made with the stock market in stocks and shares.  Represented by ownership of a business in monetary values and quantities in terms of their financial value at a given point in time.  They have a financial impact on not only the immediate markets they exist in, but the also the world economies.  For something that is again non-tangible, stocks and shares play a huge part in our lives as they relate to tangible items or in this case, money.

Looking to the past, considering technology and important assets that were ‘not real’, it’s difficult to think of anything that impacted everyday life around 100 years ago in the same way the Internet does today.  There were still advances in science, technology and manufacturing with telecommunications being one of many major technological breakthroughs of the time.

At the start of the 20th Century, telephone communication had already been around for 30 years when Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell had independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically back as far as 1870.  The first radio receiver had received its first transmission and short-wave radio came onto the scene also around the early 1900’s.  Television first appeared in the 1920’s with the Internet starting to take shape much later in the early 1980’s.

At a more human or psychological level, in any day or age, there are several things that exist in the mind, although non-tangible.  Things that make us who we are and carry around with us in our heads, yet we can’t touch, eat or smell them.  Emotions, thoughts, ambitions, fantasies, memories and so on.  Non-tangible yet we can actually see them in our mind's eye.

As we look around us and see anything and everything, objects, people, buildings, whatever - these are tangible or real.  It can be said that we take for granted the non-real stuff.  To illustrate the point in an example, a fire engine racing toward a burning building is something that is very real and real things involving people and objects will coexist in a particular emergency situation.

A computer programmer writing code for a computerised life support machine in a hospital is handling non-tangible computer code and although quite critical, the code itself is not a physical object or matter.  The reality being, the outcome of the Programmer’s actions to engineer something that saves lives as part of its daily function.  Although computer code is something that is invisible to us and used in the background to make computers work, unlike Firemen in a fire engine.

So, the essence of real stuff or stuff that is not real cannot be underestimated.  Something non-tangible can be of great importance and have a significant impact on our lives.  Whether it be tangible, something out there we can’t actually see or touch or something in the mind, it’s fair to say that we will always depend on things real or not real and our lives have certainly changed due to these technological advances as we have evolved as human beings, for the better.

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