The Polarization of Technology

In 1999, Douglas Adams wrote:

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

Apply this list to movies, rock music, word processors and mobile phones to work out how old you are.

Technology has the unique ability to both create community and break it at the same time. I’ve continued to have many of these conversations as we try to understand the impact of the internet on our children, education and our own minds. From The Shallows to Now You See It, to The Cult of the Amatuer, The Dumbest Generation and of late The Circles. I’ve read all of these except for The Circles. They all make reasonable intelligent arguments. They all point out we have to be careful. Some suggest we’re doomed, a few hold out hope. They mirror many of the conversations I have with educators everywhere. Too often I sense technology becoming a polarizing entity, which is really a shame.

But Adams quote seems to point out very clearly that there is a huge generational issue that continues to plague us to this day. Young people lack historical perspective or at least experience that allows them to see a world where we aren’t connected. Those of us in the older category tend to look back with nostalgia at “the good old days”. I often use this quote when I speak:



As adults we certainly need to share our wisdom with our students and children. That’s our job. But I think we have to caution against forgetting that others have perspectives that are valid too. I’d encourage you to read some of those books. Listen as young and old people share how technology has provided them with new possibilities and pay attention when you see people using technology in ways that are harmful. Appreciate the complexity and opportunity of our time. Get comfortable in the mess and infancy of this day and be careful not to make hasty judgments. When I read the three positions Adams shares, I’m thinking the truth is some combination of all of them.



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