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Culture Crack: Why Our Addiction to Connection Is Changing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in America

01/09/2012 07:41 pm ET | Updated Mar 10, 2012

Crack cocaine, one of the most addictive drugs in the world, has the power to change the user's value system because it rewires the chemistry of the brain. Just as addictive and equally accessible across all walks of society, technological connection also has the power to change the value system of its user. While crack rewires the chemistry of the brain, connection rewires the chemistry of the culture. It's an addiction that is changing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America.

Our increasing demand to be continuously connected to all that exists in the world gives today's connection users a near omnipotent level of knowingness previously unfathomable for mere mortals. It's like looking at the world from outer space vs. the living room window. Simply put, all of that knowingness dramatically changes our perceptions of the world including ourselves in the world as we travel along our daily paths in pursuit of meaning. What I found in my new research is that when these overarching perceptions shift and change so spectacularly, our beliefs and values shift and change right along with them. As a result, how we move within society, how we find motivation, even the roles that pleasure and privacy play in our lives in 2012 is being culturally rewired. Why? Because this never before experienced state of knowingness -- created by the power of connection -- alters the yardstick we use to measure meaning at home, at work, and at play.

In examining this relationship, I find it particularly telling that the word perception is actually defined in the dictionary as a "capacity for comprehension" and belief as a "conviction of truth." Which makes perfect sense, because after all, without comprehension there can be no conviction. Therefore our perceptions are indeed the roots from which our beliefs -- and the values we assign to those beliefs -- grow. So when our perceptions change, what we think and feel about what we see must also change.

In this respect, connection serves as the gateway to another world -- a world we are just now beginning to enter and one that no one understands because we have never lived there before. Like the mirror in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the world that exists on the other side has all new cultural guideposts and behavioral influences. Unlike the character of Alice, once we step through the gateway of knowingness, it is impossible to get back.

And just in case anyone thinks otherwise, the power of connection as our gateway to this other world cannot be reigned in or stopped. In fact, it's pushing us there faster and faster every second of every day. For example, Cisco Systems recently rolled out new technology that fulfills our insatiable craving for connection at truly godlike speeds. Known as CSR-3, this new routing system will soon allow connection users to download the entire printed works of the Library of Congress in just over one second and stream every movie that exists in less than four minutes.

Not to be viewed as either good or bad, but simply part of the cultural evolution of modern society, our addiction to connection is indeed changing the meaning of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in America. As business and political leaders try to figure out how to avoid further economic disaster and stem the tide of the ever-increasing social vitriol we hear from cultural movements from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, they are overlooking a primary driver behind many of our current calamities. Until we begin to acknowledge that we are a society undergoing an evolutionary transition and strive to understand the systemic changes taking place in the infrastructure of our culture, we will never be able to assemble a truly effective road map to arrive in that other world safely.