The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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What impact does electricity have on life today?

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Electricity has made the economy active all day, every day.  Factories and retail outlets can now operate around-the-clock.  Electricity make cities safer, as city lights are cheaper to operate on electricity rather than whale oil.  Electricity has made the southern United States productive, as air conditioning is a benefit to the area.  Electricity cooks food and preserves food in refrigerators and freezers--it has put the ice man out of business.  Electricity's uses power the Information Age, as the Internet and television would be impossible without electricity.  Electricity also makes communication instantaneous through the use of e-mail as well.  More practical uses of electricity are the batteries that power your car and the electrical devices that power pacemakers.  Electricity has done away with the hangman's noose in capital crimes, as people used the electric chair for the death penalty.  Electricity also keeps people alive in hospitals through ventilators and monitors.  It's hard to imagine world civilization without electricity.  Electricity does have a bad effect, however, in terms of light pollution--scientists are still studying the effect of light pollution from major cities on migrating birds and other creatures.  Electricity has also led to more cases of insomnia--before electricity, it was common to sleep at night, but modern-day Western society thrives on constant work and consumerism.  

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Electricity is central to the ability of almost all modern societies to function. Hospitals, air traffic control systems, street lights, modern sewage systems, most forms of communication, and the U.S. financial services industry are all dependent upon electricity.  A major attack on or failure of the nation's power grids would shut down the country.  The government uses a term to describe the importance of electricity to the country's ability to function: critical infrastructure.  That phrase, especially prominent since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, denotes those components or sectors of American society whose collapse would impede the entire nation's ability to function, with wide-scale disruptions to virtually every aspect of our daily lives.  The so-called "Northeast blackout of 2003," during which the electrical grids for the northeastern United States and the Canadian province of Ontario suddenly failed, provided an important lesson to the governments of both Canada and the United States regarding the fragility of electrical power grids on which all countries depend.  While most people's power was restored with six hours, the sudden and total loss of electricity left over one million people without access to any item or service dependent upon electricity to operate.  

Most people take electricity for granted, but most recognize that their lives are severely disrupted by power outages.  Washing machines, the ability to recharge cell phones, lights, refrigerators, electricity-powered stoves and ovens (as opposed to those operated by natural gas) all become useless when their power supply is interrupted.  The amount of perishable food that has to be discarded when power outages extend beyond a few hours -- and many do -- represents enormous financial losses, to say nothing of the shortage of food that can result.  Electricity has an enormous impact on most lives.  Its absence threatens the stability of even the most advanced civilizations.

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Electricity (along with the internal combustion engine) makes our modern way of life possible.  So I would say that electricity's impact on our life is that we could not imagine living without it.

If you have ever lived in a place where power outages were frequent, you would know just how much of an impact electricity has on our lives.  We rely on it, for example, to preserve our food (in refrigerators and freezers) and then to cook that food when we want to.  Without electricity, we would not have refrigerators or electric stoves (as well as other "kitchen gadgets" as seen in the link below).  Without electricity, we would have a hard time entertaining ourselves since our computers, our iPods, and our televisions rely on electricity.

Put simply, our lifestyles today would be impossible without electricity.

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