Technology has always driven change in lifestyle, culture, and work. As new technology comes in, some jobs disappear and new jobs take their place. Over the last several decades, our technological progress has been rapid, creating both solutions and challenges.

Although about 11% of Americans still do not use the Internet, the vast majority of us depend on it, and use it to enhance many aspects of our lives. Today, we’re seeing huge shifts in how we communicate, live, and work due to the Internet and new technologies. This isn’t a new concept, but the impact on social affairs and innovation has been massive. As voice controls, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things devices become more advanced, we can expect to see even more cultural and lifestyle changes.

Let’s take a look at how technology is changing four key areas of modern life—and what that means for the future.

  1. Communication

As we all know, communication in the Information Age has both its upsides and downsides. We are more connected than ever before in human history, yet we now interact more through online media than we do in person. Technologies are creating different relationship styles than we’ve seen in the past. We’re connecting people more easily, but we are also developing weaknesses in developing sincere and real relationships.

This has become such an important issue that device manufacturers are even getting involved in helping people to use their smartphones less and lead more balanced lives. Apple recently announced upcoming controls in iOS12 to help users prevent distractions and manage how much time they spend on their phones.

  1. Business

The use of technology has led to big shifts in business, with almost all American companies now relying on digital operations management over paper records. Businesses can now reach their ideal clientele easily over the Internet, with e-commerce and software-as-a-service businesses seeing immense success since they were introduced.

Even businesses that still primarily do business out of brick-and-mortar stores have been influenced by technology. Teams can communicate more easily, utilizing chat programs and improving collaboration. Now that many companies do all of their work online, telecommuting is becoming both a way for businesses to save money and keep employees happy. With the rise of urbanization, the ease of telecommuting could ultimately help ease traffic and congestion in cities as well.

Digital marketing has now overtaken traditional advertising and marketing tactics, and businesses are putting more money into understanding and reaching customers over social media and online search. 69% companies in one poll expected their marketing intelligence budget to grow, and most businesses have finally realized that online marketing is key to success.

  1. Big Data

Data is the hottest commodity in the 21st century. By 2020, it’s estimated that 1.7 megabytes of information will be created every second for every person on earth. In the past, business operations tended to be based on intuition and experience over data. That’s no longer the case. Large companies now have their own big data teams to find and leverage information that will help them save money and gain new customers.

With all this data, it’s challenging to know what’s true and accurate. Businesses can promote themselves with good marketing and research to prove their points. We all must be skeptical of what we read, and how we interpret and trust information we find—whether we agree with it or not.

  1. Education

It’s never been easier to teach ourselves new skills and become lifelong learners. You can indulge your curiosity and test out new subjects before you decide on an area of study by watching videos and taking courses online. It’s even possible to get a traditional degree just by taking online college courses, which has allowed people with busy schedules to go back to school and improve their education level.

Technology is in the classroom to stay. It’s changed how kids learn, and develop, too, often even leveling the playing field for students with disabilities. In 2013-14 there were 6.5 million children using special education services, and technology allows these students to access the assistive technology they need to succeed.

A Fast-Paced World

Before the Internet, connecting like-minded people was much more difficult, and people with hyper specific skills and interests were often not able to collaborate. Technology has allowed innovation to flourish, bringing the best minds in the world together. It’s important to remember, however, that this fast-paced world has downsides too—and we always need to be mindful of what we need to do to create a better, more equal world.