Photo by Wikimedia Commons user BenFrantzDale. GNU Free Documentation License.

An interesting observation on the changes wrought by the last quarter-century:

Consider the photographs of Reversing Falls in our recent article on New Brunswick. If you look closely, you may notice a bit of reflection, especially in the last picture (reproduced above), suggesting that the photographer was inside a building.

What building was it? you might ask yourself. Dr. Boli asked himself that question. It has been some years since he was in Saint John; he recognized the vantage point immediately, but could not remember the building.

How would you have answered that question in 1990? You might have gone to the central library, if you lived in a large city, and enlisted the help of a reference librarian, who might (if you were lucky and your library was unusually well stocked) have found you a map and a telephone directory of Saint John; if you had been extraordinarily clever, you might have been able to find the approximate address on the map, and then somehow, with a number of lucky deductions, found that address in the directory. How long would that take?

Streetcar and bus to library: 45 minutes
Conversation with librarian: 15 minutes
Poring over map: 5 minutes
Trying to find a specific address in the Saint John telephone directory: several hours

Thinking realistically, would you have done all that just to find the answer to your question? Almost certainly not; you would have left the question unanswered, reasoning that your idle curiosity was not worth a whole afternoon of work.

Let us leap forward now to the futuristic world of 2015. You ask yourself the same question. You call up a map of Saint John on Google Maps. You find the building in the satellite view. You plunk yourself in front of it in Street View. You see that it is a sushi restaurant called Boaz West. Time elapsed: less than a minute.

We often hear that the Internet is making profound changes in the way we deal with information, but because the changes are incremental, we seldom pause to think of them. Here is an opportunity to pause and think and ask ourselves what it all means.