Technology Isn’t For Me Any More

Yesterday, I was sitting with my nephew and niece as they were playing with their iPads.  I wasn’t so shocked at the skill and dexterity with which they were manipulating their games (indeed, the 3 year old was barely able to play Sonic the Hedgehog – pah, when I was her age I… hadn’t ever seen or touched any form of computing device.  I didn’t even have teletext or a Nintendo game and watch.) as I was shocked by the fact that to them the iPad will have always been the least technically advanced computers have ever been.

To the generation born only two or three years ago, will the iPad will be remembered in the same way as we remember the ZX81?  Perhaps – although it might be better to compare the iPad to the more well established consumer technologies of my youth:  the iPad will be remembered by them in the same way the massive, fake wood paneled black and white CRT TV set (which later became my BBC B’s monitor) is remembered by me in the age of PVRs, HD, Netflix and Youtube.

Talking of Youtube, apparently the youth of today are using it to show each other what they bought on trips to shopping malls.  Which seems boring and asinine until you think more about what is happening.  In my youth, you established your social status by constantly, hour after hour, hanging around with your friends and engaging in a million small acts of oneupmanship – or in my case, generally ignoring your friends, fiddling with computers, and praying that something like the internet would come along to ensure you never had to have any real social contact with anyone if you didn’t want to.  In the new world, they are doing the same – but they are trying to one-up the world.  Youtube has become the school yard, people are jockeying for social status and celebrity on a global scale.

And this isn’t abnormal – this is totally normal to them.  Their peer-reviewed value is now not down to who they got off with at the school disco or where they sit during assembly, but how many people liked their new profile picture.  And as they grow up and take more influential roles in society (and thats only ten or so years away folks – I won’t even be close to retiring – barring a lottery win or decent set of share options) these attitudes are what are will be shaping our world and our cultural currency.  Even for someone like me who has lived their life online as much as possible, the culture shock will be crippling.  I probably need to quickly invent a virtual lawn so that I can attempt to keep those kids off it.

But there are upsides too.

The new users of technology are not going to be satisfied with the iPads and iPhones of today.  They are going to be confused about why the rest of the world doesn’t work like the iPad does.  Why are TV remotes so clunky? Why do I actually have to be present at a particular place for my lessons, lectures and job?  Driving is hard – why I can’t I tell the car where to go and let it take me?  Shouldn’t Tesco know what shopping I’ve used and refilled my fridge while I’m at work? Unpacking is so irritating!  And probably lots of other things too – things I’m so used to that I can’t conceive of being any different.  I’m past the point where I’m going to be driving new technology (unless I happen to develop it), but the coming consumers will be looking at the world with fresh, already bored by the amazing futuristic world we live  in, eyes.

As for me, while my niece – thanks to television and computer games – is already better than me at speaking spanish, I can still outplay her at Sonic the Hedgehog – at least for a few more months.  After that I’m a relic – a walking dinosaur who will be harking back to the days of loading Elite from cassette tape, when music came on little shiny disks and when phones were mainly about talking to people.  She will be creating the world, and, at best, I’ll be responsible for implementing her demands until the government her generation elects decides it’ll be more cost effective to ship me off to Dignitas.

But the world will keep on changing.  And the future she creates will be amazing.


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