I noticed the other day that the size of the slices of bread in the kind we usually buy are perhaps 2/3 the size or less of the larger slices I seem to remember a short time ago. Then I remembered: Everything is getting smaller. Computers used to be like albatrosses or whales: large, ungainly, and taking up acres of desk space. Now you can hold one in the palm of your hand. Camcorders once were ungainly monsters you hauled around on your shoulder. Now you take video with handheld devices. Ice cream once came in half-gallon containers. Now, instead of "raising the price" on a half gallon directly, it is done indirectly by shrinking the size of the ice cream carton. In many cases, cartons of grocery items have stayed the same size, but the contents have continually dwindled.
Newspapers once were large enough to cover vast areas of space. Now, they are skinny replicas of their progenitors. Parade Magazine and USA Weekend, Sunday newspaper supplements, are down nearly to Reader's Digest size and continue to shrink. The U.S. Postal Service keeps raising postage and decreasing services and, big surprise, the laws of supply and demand come true as postal patrons continue to abandon the post office in droves, so the post office keeps shrinking in relevance. Viewers of network news and local news continue to dwindle. You can doubtless make your own lists of things you have noticed that are getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
Unfortunately, our economy has also been dwindling, but that is an outcome attributable, at least in major part, to our own faults and inattention in shrinking the rules and turning the hen houses over to the foxes.
I remember someone posed a question when I was in school to the effect that, if the world and everything in it suddenly shrank to the size of the head of a pin, would we know the difference? In our current world, going small has some times been a strategy for economic survival, although consumers feel it is a way to gouge and mislead them. As our world continues to become increasingly digitized and miniaturized, we can only hope that our intelligence, our attention to facts and objective evidence, and our ability to make decisions affecting our futures do not also dwindle and shrink. It would indeed be sad if, somehow, we cannot use the explosion in available reliable information, as distinguished from hypocrisy and self-serving lies, in ways that make our futures better than our pasts instead of yearning for a return to the oft-troubled times of yesterday. But what else is a Curmudgeonly Emeritus Professor to do but worry about the future of the world?