Hannah Urden posted this video after her flight — 1702 from Philadelphia to Fort Lauderdale — aborted takeoff and caught fire. Add this to the live tweet of the Bin Laden raid as one of my favorite all time on-the-spot reports from the arena of peril.
It was when I saw this video that it fully hit me how much things have changed since the advent of the web and the camera phone.
Imagine if the people had captured the San Francisco Earthquake on their pocket cameras. Or if the citizens of Pripyat had been rolling in the hours after reactor four exploded at Chernobyl, capturing their flight from the city. What if the assassination of John F. Kennedy had been captured on the cameras of several hundred people instead of several dozen?
Our children are growing up in a world where history is captured as it happens, usually by people in close proximity to the events themselves. That is very different than the world that many of us grew up in. And it makes one wonder, what will be the long-term changes that happen in our society as a result of this on-the-spot history documentation and authentication?
We should see an increase in the number and variety of disasters, both natural and manmade, saturating traditional and online media in the next century — disasters we expect but have never witnessed. More and more people will have cameras in the coming years, and the number of disasters caught on video has already exploded since the turn of the millennium. Before the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, most Americans hadn’t seen much footage of a tsunami disaster. Just over a decade later, we’ve seen another devastating tsunami as one third of the triple disaster Fukushima, which also showed us our first televised nuclear disaster, and the aftermath of a 9.0 — the fifth most powerful Earthquake ever recorded. Just two years later, the Boston Marathon was bombed and we captured the whole thing on video from something like seven hundred different cameras.
The Russian Meteorite, fleeting as it was — it was captured on dozens of cameras. How long before we see one that hits the Earth? What about a chemical or biological attack, or an exploding lake? We’ve been told these things can and do happen but we’ve very rarely seen them.
On a societal level, a century from now, will our children be less inclined to believe evidence that doesn’t come in video form? It should become very rare for any momentous event to occur that isn’t recorded on camera. If a sitting world leader were to die behind closed doors, how likely is it that our kids and grandkids would accept any official explanation? Will the absence of video footage actually foster conspiracy theories to a degree that makes our conspiratorial society today look pale by comparison, all because our kids are growing up in a world where everything is on video?
Will the historical record from this point on be more accurate due to the presence of cameras?
Will we see a crackdown by governments on cameras and recording devices through new laws on intellectual property? The laws we have now can only be interpreted as very liberal in favor of the photographer. If you shoot it at home or in public, you own it, forever, with a few exceptions. Organizations intent on operating in the dark will have an interest in lobbying for changes that assault these freedoms.
Will our kids have learned to hold their phone sideways when they shoot video?
We’ll have to be vigilant about all of it, and we’ll have to talk to our kids about the possibility of seeing some really terrible things. On the upside, we can be sure that the next time Paul Revere rides, wherever in the world that may be, we’ll get to see it in HD from a GoPro mounted on the saddle horn and 150 camera phones along the way. When it happens, please tag me in the Vine showing two lanterns in the old North Church. — @northdakotatroy