The history of human social development is, to some extent, the history of human scientific and technological progress. Humanity achieves scientific and technological progress by pushing its physical and mental limits and breaking away from the restrictions of time and space. This has been true in times both ancient and modern.
Our ancestors built beacon towers and invented the wheel, while we have ubiquitous Internet connection and vehicles capable of reaching outer space. In the course of our scientific and technological development, two epoch-making inventions have been the steam engine and the computer.
The steam engine ushered in the industrial age by providing far more power than what manual labor and beasts of burden could generate. The computer brought us into the information age through data processing capabilities that far outperform the human brain.
The past century has witnessed several waves of progress made possible by information technologies, including those used for communications (telegraphy, telephony, and broadcasting), home entertainment (radio, TV), computing, and the Internet. Information technologies drive economic growth worldwide and reshape the way people live and work.
At present, we are evolving from a "society on wheels" to a "society on the network." However, information systems are still regarded as aid tools and support systems, keeping the digital and physical worlds somewhat parallel and compartmentalized. Now, as the digital and physical worlds begin to merge, the development of the Internet of Things has proven to be an effective catalyst of information-based developments and is sure to bring groundbreaking changes to all of humanity.
Beyond information and communications, the increasing integration of the digital and physical worlds will lead to a new digital revolution.
British philosopher Karl R. Popper divides human society into three parts: the physical world, the mental/psychological world, and the world of products of the human mind (also known as the world of objective knowledge). In the future, the physical world will be married with the digital world to form a new world. This integration will bring tremendous changes to the way we live and work, the way businesses operate, and the way society functions — a new age of digital citizens, digital enterprises, and digital society.