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An optimist lectures his children...
December 20, 2011 10:58 AM   Subscribe

10 Things Our Kids Will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution. An optimist's take on how the lives of future generations will improve based on technology.
posted by downing street memo (104 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
10 Things Our Kids Will Never Worry About Get to Enjoy Thanks to the Information Revolution.
posted by jbickers at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


So Forbes is basically Cracked.com without the comedy?
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2011 [41 favorites]


Things they will have to worry about: information diets, attentional exercise.
posted by phrontist at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


It used to be hard to learn how to type. Many people (especially men) never bothered. These days, kids teach themselves and many are experts before they’ve reached middle school. They don’t need classes to master the task. They’ll laugh that we did.

Not a single sentence of this is correct.
posted by DU at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2011 [55 favorites]


8) Having to endlessly search to find unique content.

Yeah, well...unique content isn't the hard part. Relevant or worthwhile, on the other hand...
posted by Thorzdad at 11:06 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


11. Seeing an entire top ten list on a single web page.
posted by rocket88 at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2011 [96 favorites]


And they’ll be flabbergasted by how many trees we cut down so that people could look up numbers in something called a “phone book.”

I think most of us have already been pretty flabbergasted and disgusted by this for a decade or so.
posted by gurple at 11:10 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Reminds me of a Peter Kay routine I saw a while back:
All your mum and me used to have in the evenings was sky digital. Playstation, yeah. We used to have to manage with a car each, a car each! Your mam, she used to have a dishwasher! You don't remember - look at her face, you don't remember them, do you? She used to have take over all the plates, load them in, by hand, on her own! turn it on!
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:10 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, when did Forbes start emulating a content farm? A lot of the actual content is still pretty solid; this top 10 list is lame, for instance, but at least original. But the presentation and the sheer density of mediocre articles... It seems new for them.
posted by Nelson at 11:11 AM on December 20, 2011


Gag. These are all what we call "first world problems" - problems that are only relevant to affluent people in third-world countries.

And the article is completely wrong anyway. Even in my most optimistic and utopian mood, it's very hard for me to come up with a concrete future that doesn't involve at least a period when an awful lot of people in the West will be going without things that we think of today as essentials.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:12 AM on December 20, 2011


Today, virtually any piece of desired content, no matter how obscure, is just a quick search away.

This is true as long as your tastes are fairly middlebrow.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:13 AM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


8) Having to endlessly search to find unique content.

...Today, virtually any piece of desired content, no matter how obscure, is just a quick search away.


It's getting better all the time, for sure, but there is so so much still missing.
posted by Jehan at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


...and they will never worry about job permanence, income disparity, outsourced jobs...thanks, information age.
posted by Postroad at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Three Things Candide Will Never Have to Worry About Thanks to El Dorado:

5. Having enough gold to purchase Cacambo
4. Having enough gold to purchase the Old Lady
3. Having enough gold to purchase Dr. Pangloss
2. Having enough gold to purchase Cunegonde's sister
1. Having enough gold to purchase Cunegonde

One Thing Candide Will Have to Worry About..

1. Agrarianism
posted by obscurator at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


"While it is easy for some old-timers to get nostalgic about the decline of hand-written letters, the upside is that new communications and social media technologies have made it easier than ever for us to stay in close and continuous contact with friends and family."

Lol, zomg u r right!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


11) Finding porn in the woods :(
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [33 favorites]


My main takeaway from that article was that technology really isn't that great.
posted by ropeladder at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was standing in line at the post office yesterday behind a woman with her young son. We were both there for the better part of an hour, and yet the 4 or 5 year old was perfectly content watching some animated puppet video on an iPhone. Finally, I commented to the mom that kids are so lucky these days. That if I had that sort of thing when I was his age, it would have been unthinkable magic. That in the same situation, back then, my mom would have resorted to making us sit in the car and wait for her (none of us in car seats, by the way), because we would have turned into unspeakable monsters if we'd had to put up with waiting in that interminable line at 5 years old. We laughed about it, but then she said that she sometimes worries about having technology like this is going to affect his imagination, and whether her kid will have the same sorts of opportunities to pretend and play like we did.
posted by crunchland at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2011 [12 favorites]


sister brother
posted by obscurator at 11:16 AM on December 20, 2011


Maybe this is actually a subtle satire on technogeekery? The point being to suggest that the information revolution is actually completely underwhelming: the greatest claims that can be made for it being that it freed us of the tyranny of payphones and encyclopedia sets?

I mean, if it is just what it looks like--a rigorously insight-free rumination about the rewards of the computer age I'm not sure what the hell it's meant to be doing here. It's certainly not "Best of the Web" and it's certainly not interesting/outrageous/newsworthy in its own right.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


... she said that she sometimes worries about having technology like this is going to affect his imagination, and whether her kid will have the same sorts of opportunities to pretend and play like we did.

My daughter is 14mo old, and at this point it's easy to tell myself that there's no way in hell I'm going to give her an iPhone as a pacifier when she's 4-5 years old.

I wonder, though, how hard it will be in a few years when she's that age. They'll be even more ubiquitous then. Not giving her one might seem like refusing to give her adequate shoes, or a coat. Might make her seem and feel less capable than other kids, which could in turn have lasting effects.

Yep, better move out to the woods and raise her to be a ninja.
posted by gurple at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Regarding ubiquitous internet or long distance bills: clearly, the guy has never been overseas and been seduced by data-roaming.
posted by the cydonian at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not really a list of things they won't worry about. That list would have items like

#1 -- not having immediate access to nearly whatever information one could want

but it's not written that way because the piece isn't really about how monumental the changes described actually are.
posted by clockzero at 11:21 AM on December 20, 2011


There's really nothing forward-looking at all in that list. Every technology listed is at least a decade or two old. Hell, they're things that my peers have experienced, and we're all in our 30s. I hope to hell that my kids have a brighter technology-enabled future than that.

tl;dr: Where's our jetpacks.
posted by General Malaise at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


crunchland, based on my own five year old, I will offer the observation that her imagination does not appear to be lacking AT ALL. We have a whole My Little Pony MULTIVERSE going on in her room alone.

I recently had to travel from Seattle to Michigan with the aforementioned 5 year old and, at the time, 9 month old baby for my grandmother's funeral. This involved flying to O'Hare, renting a car, and making the 6^H9 hour drive up around the lake. I spent twenty god damn dollars to buy Tangled from iTunes and put it on the ipad, as well as probably twenty more bucks on various preschooler apps and games.

When we reached cruising altitude, I popped the kid friendly headphones onto the child, booted up the movie, and handed it over. Lily watched it straight through without making a sound, then dragged the slider back to the beginning and watched it straight through AGAIN -- and then we began our final approach. Once we were in the car, she alternated between her random kiddo games and Angry Birds for the vast majority of the drive.

When I was a child, we used to drive from Houston to the same spot in Michigan every year, it was a two day drive. I was joking to my mother that she probably thinks I'm soft for relying so heavily on the ipad for this travel, and she said "Are you fucking shitting me? If I could go back in time and give everyone ipads for that trip, I would do it in a heartbeat. Jesus Christ you people are lucky."
posted by KathrynT at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


Sneaking into your father's closet when your parents aren't home so you can look at his collection of Playboy and Penthouse.

Borrowing cassettes so you could copy them.

Borrowing VHS tapes so you could copy them.

Going to the library.

Only being able to watch first run cartoons on Saturday morning.

Obsessively going through the Sears catalogue and circling the toys you wanted for Christmas.

The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

Crap...now I feel old.
posted by GavinR at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Incidentally, just six years ago, Blockbuster, the largest video-rental chain at the time, abandoned an effort to acquire rival Hollywood Video after antitrust regulators at the Federal Trade Commission threaten to block the deal. It serves as another example of creative destruction at work and also as a cautionary tale about regulatory shortsightedness.

In the middle of talking about how physical media has become obsolete, the writer stops to suggest that Blockbuster would be better off if only federal regulators had not stopped the video rental giant from throwing money at more brick-and-mortar retail outlets

This tells us more about Forbes than it does about the information revolution.
posted by compartment at 11:28 AM on December 20, 2011 [23 favorites]


Gag. These are all what we call "first world problems" - problems that are only relevant to affluent people in third-world countries.

Also, you should eat all your dinner because there are people starving in the world.
posted by mhoye at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hopefully the power never goes out.
posted by dobie at 11:34 AM on December 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


...the writer stops to suggest that Blockbuster would be better off if only federal regulators had not stopped the video rental giant from...

I do think this piece is quite a bit out of touch, and generally I find Forbes to be tone deaf and ridiculous. But the point of FTC action isn't to help business succeed, it's to prevent monopolies. And I think the writer makes a reasonable point that a brick-and-mortar video-rental monopoly isn't exactly the bogeyman in 2011 that it might have seemed six years ago.
posted by gurple at 11:37 AM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I bet this guy sits right next to the "If I Were A Poor Black Kid" guy
posted by briank at 11:38 AM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think there's another side of things that's rarely considered in lists like TFA ... as we add various capabilities, we create, out of necessity, a lot of social rules for how to use them. The development of those social rules is generally not very pretty.

There's centuries of social convention that goes into the now-dying art of a formal letter, for instance; decades in the use of the telephone.

I'd argue that conventions for the use of cellphones are still being hashed out. Some behaviors that would have slid by in the 90s as simply odd would be rightfully perceived as douchebaggy today, now that cellphones are more ubiquitous. But conversely, there are things that people accept today that would have probably come across as rude when cellphones were less prevalent.

All the new technologies are going to bring with them similar social developments, in response to the social anxieties and friction that they create. And I think it's sort of a zero-sum game in terms of how much mental energy we spend on worrying over them.

The effort that someone in a previous generation might have spent rewriting a love letter, or on working up the courage to pick up the phone and dial it, they might today spend composing and recomposing an email or a text message; I fully expect that future generations will do the exact same thing with whatever the dominant mode of communication is.

In my experience, most people spend a lot less time worrying about technology per se (outside of in a professional capacity, for those who are paid to), than about how to correctly use technology in their relationships with other people, whether business or personal, in order to get through their day. I haven't seen much of a fundamental change in those worries in my lifetime, in which there have been some fairly significant technological changes, and this makes me suspect that they're pretty constant.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


He missed the screamingly obvious (and I think most useful / interesting one): never being lost. It's nearly impossible to not actually know where you are any more.
posted by bbuda at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


> Three Five Things...
posted by obscurator at 11:51 AM on December 20, 2011


and whether her kid will have the same sorts of opportunities to pretend and play like we did.

In my house right is a wide assortment of computers, smartphones, DVD players, and other gizmos. My girls are 8 and 11, and they've had access to this stuff pretty much their entire lives. With school out this week we've relaxed the rules, and they're allowed pretty much unlimited screen time.

As I type this they're using Sunday's paper, glue and water to create a paper mache turtles, which they will then decorate and paint. They decided to do that on their own, with no prompting from me or any other adult.

I'm not worried.
posted by FfejL at 11:54 AM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Fuck it. In 2012, I'm not going to read any paginated articles.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


My daughter is 14mo old, and at this point it's easy to tell myself that there's no way in hell I'm going to give her an iPhone as a pacifier when she's 4-5 years old.

Things I credit my iPhone for (while we were using it for a pacifier): teaching my kid to spell when he as 3; teaching my kid math (not just addition and subtraction, either); enabling my kid to watch virtually every Schoolhouse Rock video ever made; enabling my kid to watch videos made from the ISS over (and over and over and over) and over again; teaching him about the Solar System, and about how space travel works.

It's not just Pixar movies and Angry Birds. The really cool thing is that my child can learn, and be engaged in learning, wherever we are. It takes that time that was formerly just bored time (standing in line, in the doctor's waiting room, grocery shopping) and turns it into time he's learning new stuff.

And, yeah, his imagination doesn't suffer one bit, I'm amazed to say. My biggest concern is that he'll never learn how to be bored.
posted by anastasiav at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's going to be hilarious when he looks back on this article after the zombie apocalypse.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


7) Buying / storing music, movies, or games on physical media.

When the cloud bursts, as it almost certainly will at some point during the next century (OK this is just my opinion, man), there will be a lot of smug people like me who have retained all of their data within arm's reach.
posted by Danf at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


GavinR: Ah, yes, sneaking into dad's room and looking at his porno mags when you're home alone. Those were truly the days. The porn was blander than this hardcore Internet stuff, but it was sexier because there was a risk involved.

or so I tell myself

Also: the library is still pretty relevant...though, you may not necessarily have to physically go there any more, since you can rent e-books for your e-reader (at least from my local public library).
posted by asnider at 12:01 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


What strikes me about that list is how many of the things on it are currently problems, imo. It's really hard to find a payphone now, and it can be extremely scary sometimes when things go wrong and I absolutely have to make a call. Likewise, it may get hard to find old movies or TV shows if the only thing available is today's hit movie of the moment streamed from wherever. And letters? It used to be fun to communicate with people two or three times a year with those information rich letters written in little scrawly cursive. Now it's an obligation to poke people with short, content free messages or acknowledge that they poked me. Spending an hour on an Email to get a letter just right is a fool's game, because no one spends any time reading. Just scan and move on.

And the absolute worst thing about the future is how it's turned me into Andy Rooney.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:02 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hey, my grandma finally got one of her emails published!
posted by orme at 12:07 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


1) Having to buy porn magazines off their friend’s older brothers.
2) Having to wonder whatever happened to an old friend / girlfriend / teacher
3) Having to tie up the family phone talking to a friend
4) Not knowing where their friends are at all times
5) Missing a TV show because they had to be somewhere else, or having to wait an entire year for the one showing of the Rudolph or Charlie Brown Christmas specials.
6) Knowing nothing about an upcoming movie/TV show/album until they saw the first ads or trailers
7) Having to wait 6-8 weeks for something they ordered (by filling out a form and mailing a check) to arrive
8) Having nobody at all to talk to if they had no friends at their school
9) Trying to imagine a future with video phones (this one snuck up on us… all along we expected the phone to evolve into a video phone, not for the computer to evolve into a communication hub)
10) Having to really think about what photos they wanted to take because that shit cost money.
posted by bondcliff at 12:12 PM on December 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Judging by my sole experience watching a 5 year old interact with an iPod, the primary educational benefit is teaching young children that if you poke a dog enough, it will fart and that will be hilarious.
posted by cmonkey at 12:14 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


11. Having a functioning ecosystem and enough non-war-contested natural resources to have the luxury of worrying about the above 10?
posted by lalochezia at 12:17 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]




I refused to buy the car dvd when my kids were younger. I've gone through a lot of hell on some trips and even resorted to the old "I'm going to turn this car around" a couple of times, but now my oldest brings a book to read on even the shortest trip and the younger one is engaged in conversation with us, plays games, sings and mentions the things he sees out the windows. All I'm saying is that it would have been much easier on me to have gone the dvd/video game route but the fact that it never was an option forced them to more active alternatives.
posted by any major dude at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry folks. I'd like to be smug about the article. I could probably nitpick a detail or two. But there's nothing that I can seriously disagree with on the list.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having to unfold the giant road map to figure out where you're going - or stopping at a gas station to ask directions.

Programming a VCR. (Anyone remember VCR Plus numbers?)

Bringing enough cassettes for your Walkman to make sure you have plenty to listen to on a long trip, but not so many that they totally weigh down your bag.

Making that perfect mix tape for your friend, or the person you have a crush on.


(now get off my lawn!)
posted by SisterHavana at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


People who think the list isn't forward thinking enoigh: it's written for people who already have kids.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:27 PM on December 20, 2011


Wow, one gigantic one he missed, which still amazes me on a constant basis:

11. Being lost.

With the advent of GPS, you almost always know exactly where you are, and with handheld mapping devices with routing, you always know where to go. It may not be the ideal route, but it will get you more or less where you need to be. And with smartphones, you can locate and summon, anywhere in the country, almost any service our modern civilization provides, using nothing more than a handheld device that will run a week on batteries.

I remember traveling when I was a kid, and how much care and attention my parents paid to maps. They'd actually drive down to AAA, tell them where they were going on vacation, and AAA would print this neat little booklet for them, called a triptych. It was kinda tall and narrow, exactly the right size to hold in your hand, and spiral bound on top. As you progressed down the route, you flipped the pages, and then you'd have a new little context-sensitive map showing where you were now, and what turn you needed to take. It was kind of like a paper Mapquest. Super cool. But you had to actually drive down to the location to get one!

I remain convinced that GPS is one of the biggest inventions since the light bulb. The light bulb did away with the dark; the GPS does away with being lost. I mean, think about that for a minute... after hunger, thirst, and illness, being in the dark and being lost are two are two of the most perennially vexing problems humanity has ever had. Down all the long, long, LONG years of humanity's existence, those have been our constant unwanted companions. The dark went away a hundred years ago, but being lost only truly finally disappeared for most of us within the last few years.

I find both the change, and how little people notice that change, to be remarkable.
posted by Malor at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2011 [19 favorites]


11. Being lost.

Back in my day we didn't know where we were until someone told us we were on their lawn.
posted by Kabanos at 12:37 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Forbes is basically Cracked.com without the comedy?

Cracked is more likely to be insightful and is run by human beings.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:37 PM on December 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


With the advent of GPS, you almost always know exactly where you are, and with handheld mapping devices with routing, you always know where to go.

Yeah, but then cartographic education starts to suffer. I'm probably one of the rare 20-somethings that has a Thomas Bros. Guide and a Yellow pages in my car all the time, and I regularly use the Thomas Bros. Guide, sometimes even when I bring my GPS along.

I remember in Hessler's Country Driving, where he specifically says that when he asks for directions in China he doesn't pull out his map, because most rural people in China don't know how to read a map. It dawns on me that maps are their own language in many ways, and though GPS has some of the symbols of maps, a bit of the language is lost in the process when directions are spoken directly to you.

I just warn my peers that I'll at least know where I'm going once all the satellites fall out of the sky or a solar storm knocks out power for a week.
posted by FJT at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


An interesting article could be written with the same title. But this article is one that practically everyone could write off the top of their heads, without thinking too hard or doing any research. The suggestions are on the level of average high-school essay regurgitation of obviousisms. Many of the above posts contain far better examples.
posted by cincinnatus c at 12:40 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


12. Buying recipe books.
posted by wayland at 12:44 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"But the point of FTC action isn't to help business succeed, it's to prevent monopolies. And I think the writer makes a reasonable point that a brick-and-mortar video-rental monopoly isn't exactly the bogeyman in 2011 that it might have seemed six years ago."

If that's really the writer's point, he would have been well-served by stating it as clearly as you did. I do agree that the video rental market today is very different than it was six years ago.

But instead the writer mentions "creative destruction" without actually clarifying what, other than Blockbuster, might have been destroyed.

Moreover, it's not as if federal regulators actually blocked the deal. Blockbuster withdrew their offer when regulators attempted to delay the purchase. Why? Because Blockbuster provided insufficient and inaccurate pricing data. (PDF link) According to the FTC, the Blockbuster data resulted in a model that "proved to be flawed and useless in the analysis of the proposed transaction."

So it's not as if the FTC predicted the future wrong, or was somehow short-sighted. Instead, it was the opposite scenario: The FTC claimed that they could not begin to reasonably judge the merger's effects until Blockbuster provided accurate data.

My hypothesis: Blockbuster came to their senses, realized that brick-and-mortar was dead, and withdrew from the Hollywood Video offer in favor of throwing capital at their online business. Given the choice between saying "our current business model sucks" and "damn those pesky regulators," any competently managed, publicly traded company is going to say the latter.

In other words, I don't think this is regulators getting it wrong. I think this is a business getting it right.
posted by compartment at 12:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, gotta disagree w/ the typing thing. I haven't seen a single teenager type 80+wpm.
posted by Lukenlogs at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


AAA would print this neat little booklet for them, called a triptych

That's TripTik.
posted by JanetLand at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2011


I find the typing observation interesting, it's quite true, my kids are 11, have never been taught to type and are far and away at least twice as quick as me with less errors. They may not know where or even what the home row is, but they do have a system that works for them. It's a system they devised along with learning to walk and wipe their own butts.
posted by Keith Talent at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2011


The only thing I don't miss is looking in the newspaper to find movie times, rushing to that shit even though you are a few minutes late and then finding it is sold out.

There is fun stuff our children (children , that is an outdated concept) will miss, like rollerskating.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:49 PM on December 20, 2011


There is fun stuff our children (children , that is an outdated concept) will miss, like rollerskating.

Naw, some of them will need to learn to rollerskate for roller derby leagues.
posted by drezdn at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yeah gps is like the culmination of thousands or years of human effort, from navigating by the stars, to all the work put into creating accurate timekeeping devices that worked at sea, to charting and mapping through primitive triangulation. More thought has been put into figuring out where people are than anything else I bet.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


A bigger, more monopolistic Blockbuster might have had the market-share to bully Hollywood into not providing streaming licenses to Netflix and other streaming media companies. Dude thinks he can peer into alternate realities and suss out their alternate timelines. No, dude, you can't. You're just so indoctrinated in your cult of deregulation that you think you're a genie.

The fact that innovation happened, competition happened and obsolete business models have failed could just as easily be spun as favorable outcomes of regulation. Certainly regulation did not hamper innovation. These are consumer protections, and as a consumer I could give a rat's patootie that an entity named "Blockbuster" no longer provides me with media, since I now have superior sources.
posted by Skwirl at 12:58 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


i see his point on everything, except the physical media part - he doesn't really think that people aren't going to back up their data, does he?

i also have to wonder about someone who considers "hey, hey, what can i do?" to be a "rare" led zeppelin b-side - the a-side was immigrant song, #16 on the billboard charts - it wasn't rare in the 80's and isn't that rare now - although i'm kind of shocked that amazon lists it for $12.97 ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:58 PM on December 20, 2011


I remember seeing a panel discussion of people working for the 2008 campaigns in the capacity of mobilizing young voters. The theme was technology. Technology! We young people are so comfortable with it, it's fully integrated into our lives, we've grown up with it. Listening to all this technology , I was pretty sure that they had all written their own C compilers or something. But, what they meant was: they like their phones, a lot, and they use Facebook and Twitter all the time.
posted by thelonius at 1:02 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, hopefully the power never goes out.

(And hopefully your data never gets hacked in the course of all that online activity like bill-paying and what-not.) (Nobody cares about risk management until the lack of it goes against them.)
posted by cool breeze at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


My son has been taking Keyboarding at school since kindergarten. He's in forth grade now. He still can't type for shit, but he's learning it.
posted by bondcliff at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2011


I'd like to live in your world, Malor. It sounds pretty nice.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2011


It's going to be hilarious when he looks back on this article after the zombie apocalypse.

If he remembered to make a print out.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:16 PM on December 20, 2011


On the 'being lost' thing, what percentage of the population of the U.S. or Europe currently has the ability to call up a map of their location from any outdoor location? A minority, surely?
posted by gubo at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2011


Much of this reminds me that humanity is one solar shitstorm away from the apocalypse.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:19 PM on December 20, 2011


6) Driving to a store to rent a movie.

Dedicated store, no. Going to the store or fast food restaurant or gas station that put up a DVD vending machine, yes. Not all of us can afford or are in range of all the pieces to make non-physical media totally work.

9) Sending letters.

The thing that physical writing does is change how we write. Editing stuff several times once it's visible is old hat for those who grew up with computers. I never really understood how this happened before word processors.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:21 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Much of this reminds me that humanity is one solar shitstorm away from the apocalypse.

I do wonder how hardened the satellites in 'satellite navigation systems' are to intense solar radiation. Perhaps they're very secure as they're meant for military use. Probably won't help when the next big solar storm blows out power relay stations and disrupts radio frequencies.

10) Being without the Internet & instant, ubiquitous connectivity.

One has to be able to afford this (and not be under some kind of natural disaster). And networks are fragile in so many ways it's not even funny.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:25 PM on December 20, 2011


My daughter is 14mo old, and at this point it's easy to tell myself that there's no way in hell I'm going to give her an iPhone as a pacifier when she's 4-5 years old.

I wonder, though, how hard it will be in a few years when she's that age.


Hah. A few weeks ago I visited my brother, sister-in-law and 20 month old nephew for the weekend. We were at a restaurant for dinner, and towards the latter part of the meal my nephew started getting a little squirmy, as a toddler is wont to do. My sister-in-law whips out her iPhone and fires up an app called (according to my nephew anyway) "ABC Train," and I tell you what, that little boy was entranced. We could have probably sat there for hours while he played ABC train.

And you know what, he's not even two, and he knows his ABCs! He recognizes letters and words associated with them in other contexts, too, not just in this game. Now, I don't remember what I was like at 2 years old, but I have to think that my nephew is more advanced in his learning than my brother or I were at his age. And he still does lots of play on his own without the iPhone, so it doesn't look like it's hurting his imagination any.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 1:37 PM on December 20, 2011


I'd like to live in your world, Malor. It sounds pretty nice.

Well, think about it a little. GPS is freaking amazing. A little machine that, just running on batteries, tells you exactly where you are, and exactly where to go. Such a small-sounding thing, such a huge impact. I spent tons of time as a youth figuring that out, and you were never quite sure you were right. There was always a significant guess component to mapreading, and travel was always kind of a nervous business, especially long distance travel. Now location and route finding is completely automated. For anyone who wanted to travel, it was a major, pressing problem, and it's just gone. Want to just up and drive to Poughkeepsie? No problem. You can do it with zero research. Get up and go. You don't even have to know what state it's in.

And that's especially impressive when you consider that this is now part of your portable phone, which is able to communicate with most other people in the First World, just by telling it to contact them, and can do so even from fairly remote areas over an invisible wireless network. And these phones have enough memory to store whole movies inside, and some are capable of driving a TV that can fill a wall. Storing hundreds and hundreds of hours of music is a trivial afterthought. AND it's a full-fledged computer.

If you're not kind of amazed, a bit wide-eyed, you're not paying enough attention! The future snuck up on us when we weren't looking. It's not the Utopian future in the books, but it's not completely dystopian, either.
posted by Malor at 1:40 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tagging the buyout of your rival as a "creative" endeavor sounds like business bullshit-speak, much in the same vein as "downsizing". "Predatory" and "anti-consumer" are just too negative, I guess.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2011


11) trying to figure out how to best use their freedom
12) voting
13) whether or not to take that class in the humanities because you thought it might be interesting
14) having a meaningful friendship with somebody you actually talk with every day

feel free to add to the list.........
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:46 PM on December 20, 2011


It's not the Utopian future in the books, but it's not completely dystopian, either.

Give it time.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:46 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


gubo: On the 'being lost' thing, what percentage of the population of the U.S. or Europe currently has the ability to call up a map of their location from any outdoor location? A minority, surely?

Well, Apple alone shipped about 47 million phones in 2010, so presumably they put out 60+ million this year. And Android phones outsell Apple by a substantial margin, so I'd guess there were at least a hundred and twenty million smartphones shipped in 2011, and every one of them should be able to do this.

Even if you assume that all the prior years of smartphones are in the junkheap, that the 120 million is all the active users, that's about 40% of the entire population. And most phones last at least a couple years, so I think it has to be at least a majority by now.
posted by Malor at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, you know, 47 million is worldwide sales, not US sales, so my figures are off. Sorry!
posted by Malor at 1:51 PM on December 20, 2011


Brocktoon: Tagging the buyout of your rival as a "creative" endeavor sounds like business bullshit-speak

Creative destruction is a technical term.
posted by stebulus at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2011


Kevin Street: a related video, Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy.
posted by Malor at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2011


I suspect that kids today, with all of these technological advancements, may be ill-prepared to fend for themselves when some of the infrastructure we take for granted shuts down, if only temporarily. I have a six and an 11 year old. They are learning to type correctly (albeit on a computer, not an electric IBM typewriter), we write snail-mail thank-you notes, we read real maps on our road trips and only use the GPS to settle disputes of distance. We are low-fi and we are low-fi on purpose. Some might argue that handing a kid all the short-cuts might free them up to be unbelievably creative/innovative, but I think handing a kid all the short-cuts deprives them to some extent of being able to fend for themselves and learn alternative methods of getting things accomplished. I also think that the more we indulge the instant-gratification we're becoming more and more accustomed to, the bigger assholes we seem to become.

I watched Hud over the weekend, because it's one of my favorite films. I was thinking about all the articles lately about "culture stagnation" and how culture has been "stuck" for the last 20 years, save for technological advances. There's a line in the film (I haven't re-read the novel to confirm if it's in there also) where Homer Bannon says to Hud, "Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire. You're just going to have to make up your own mind one day about what's right and wrong. " If we're all admiring technology and not each other, where does that leave us as a country?
posted by PuppyCat at 2:07 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Huh. I did not expect to see #1. Not because it isn't true, but because it isn't often recognized. I'm kinda over the old man jokes these days (because it's become somewhat more true than funny) but taking a typing class -- on typewriters -- that really does seem to be a world apart for people. And anyway, hey, it came in handy in undergrad when I was already typing 80+wpm.

The endless checks one (cheques, if you please) is a fine item, but what gets me far more is -- as Louis CK joked about on Conan -- not having ATMs, running out of money, and just "not being able to do more stuff". Ok, I guess we go home now. (though in those days I remember doing a lot more with a lot less money, but I digress)

And the big one is really just the ability to find information on any damn thing in an instant. I'm still not entirely used to that. I was in the liquor store not 30 minutes ago, looked at an unfamiliar bottle of liqueur, and wished I could find out what it was like without buying it. I could ask the shop clerk who may or may not know, and then it finally dawned on me that, yes, we have the internet now, and finding things like this out is dead easy. I'll never completely take that for granted.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:16 PM on December 20, 2011


Related to the previous point, the digital generation will never recall a time when they had to hunt for the obscure media content they desired

My teenage self would be so jealous of me now. Back then when I wanted some obscure book I would have to send a list of requests to booksellers advertising in the back of the LA times Book Review section. They would send me prices and availability. Sometimes I could not afford the books, sometimes no copies could be found. Now I just go on Amazon or Abe and find almost anything I want and often it is a $1.00 or 2.00 plus shipping.

Also one thing about those fabulously expensive encyclopedias that the parents bought that he didn't mention was how quickly they became obsolete. It was a once in a lifetime purchase with a shelf life of 5 years or so (depending on what you were looking up.) So that by the time I was in high school I was better off going to the library to look things up but the library hours were not always great. For example if one waited to do Friday's homework until Thursday night at 8:00.

The availability of data has taken some of the fun and mystery out of travel I find. As a 19 year old I went off to Europe by myself with only a "Fodor's Europe on $5.00" a day to guide me. Few pictures, minimal reviews and you never knew if that charming B & B was still open or still going to be run by the same people. Now you go on line and get pictures of every room and 10'ss if not hundreds of reviews.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:19 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, those encyclopedias. Though the Audubons were gorgeous.

Also: motherfucking stencils. Grade school seems to me like an endless parade of projects involving stencils.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2011


Creative destruction is a technical term.

Good to know, yet somehow I don't quite think it applies to the market potential of movie rentals.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:42 PM on December 20, 2011


a handheld device that will run a week on batteries

Man, what kind of amazing smartphone are you using where the battery will last you a week? My phone pretty much needs to be charged on a daily basis -- I could probably get 2 or 3 days out of a single charge if I didn't actually use the phone for anything other than making the 1 or 2 phone calls I actually make on an given day. But, a week? Not if I'm running the GPS for any length of time.
posted by asnider at 2:54 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why in God's name wouldn't it? Do technical terms only apply to industries you find sufficiently highbrow?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:04 PM on December 20, 2011


GPS

Maybe I'm just dumb, but I tried to navigate with my Android phone recently on a long road trip to California and back, and had almost no luck at all. Sure, in the cities it wasn't too bad, but outside of them, even just a few miles, it rarely had any idea where I was, whether I was using Google Maps or the unspeakably awful AAA app. Finding a gas station or a restaurant? Total fail. Most of the time the data wouldn't even load, and I was stuck staring at a blank grid. Two incidents in Bakersfield and Sacramento had me cursing in particular.

Paper maps not only worked 100% of the time, but they also didn't constantly try to drag me back to the interstate. I like the back roads.

Even in town I found using the tiny screen pretty much impossible compared to a good old-fashioned Thomas Guide. I consider myself quite adept at Google Maps on a larger monitor but on the phone my reaction was ultimately "screw it". Thomas in the big cities, DeLorme's state atlases supplemented with gas-station maps as required, and I will out-navigate you and ten of your phones every time.
posted by Fnarf at 3:08 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I thought of another one: Chartpak. Kids today would look at you dumbfounded if you tried to tell them you used to lay out lettering by rubbing transfers with a little stick.
posted by Fnarf at 3:11 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


And then there's this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8C-qIgbP9o&feature=youtu.be
posted by PuppyCat at 3:17 PM on December 20, 2011


I wrote a letter last week. My friend said she hadn't gotten a handwritten letter for years. I think we should all try writing letters now and then. Recipients will be gobsmacked: guaranteed. And it's hard to gobsmack these days. About a century ago, Duchamp, and Jarry, and more recently Cage and Coltrane and YouTube etc. have has almost eliminated the ability to shock.

And GPS? Never tried it, but it seems like relying on it might come at the cost of maintaining one's ability to get around in this spatio-temporal world using our pre-installed meat computer.

The ability to get almost any question answered almost immediately, though, trumps all the elimination of the more picayune routines we oldsters grew up with.
posted by kozad at 4:17 PM on December 20, 2011


Damn, I use GPS in places I've been a million times. I am trying to offload the directional and pathfinding parts of my brain so I can focus on the big picture. Let the gizmo worry about right and left turn, I am focused on what I'm going to do when I get to my destination.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:32 PM on December 20, 2011


I wrote a letter last week. My friend said she hadn't gotten a handwritten letter for years.

I wrote my mother a long letter because that is what she requested for Christmas.

One thing I have is the letters from camp (and from Europe) that I wrote my parents, long scraggly letters with many misspellings. I would not trade them for emails.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:33 PM on December 20, 2011


Laying out the school newspaper by literally cutting and pasting it together.

Also, learning cursive handwriting. I remember it was Such A Big Deal to know how to write in cursive when I was younger - not so much anymore.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some folks bemoan the lost art of letter writing, but it’s as dead as the dodo.

I beg to differ, Mr. Adam Thierer. It's just not wasted on skimmers like you.
posted by Spatch at 4:42 PM on December 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whose kids are "our" kids? The 2009 census showed that only 62% of Americans had Internet in the home. I grew up comfortably middle-class and am currently pursuing an advanced degree, and I don't have a smart-phone; many of my peers don't either. Don't get me wrong, the Internet dominates my life in a way most probably couldn't have foreseen a decade or two ago, but even still, I think sometimes those who are highly plugged-in over-project their own lifestyle to the populace at large.
posted by threeants at 6:04 PM on December 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


And GPS? Never tried it, but it seems like relying on it might come at the cost of maintaining one's ability to get around in this spatio-temporal world using our pre-installed meat computer.

My boss is pretty much useless without a GPS. She can get to and from work if she goes straight from/to home. Beyond that, she pretty much needs her GPS to get anywhere even if she isn't leaving the city. Her reliance on GPS has pretty much completely destroyed her natural navigational skills, to the point that she won't even attempt to get somewhere without it.
posted by asnider at 6:56 PM on December 20, 2011


if technology is so great why am i depressed and alienated and angry

answer me that mr forbes
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:50 PM on December 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


he doesn't really think that people aren't going to back up their data, does he?

Outside of techy people, almost no one I know backs up their data.

*if* you trust the service to stay around, cloud storage is good enough for most people --- way less likely to lose data than local storage (lose computer, bad HDD, etc). Of course I always do both, but again the vast majority of people don't think of these things, they don't even know _where_ their data actually lives. They just put it in "the computer", not sure if its on their drive or the cloud or Mars or whatever.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2011


the vast majority of people don't think of these things, they don't even know _where_ their data actually lives. They just put it in "the computer", not sure if its on their drive or the cloud or Mars or whatever.

I think that might be a bit of an oversimplification. Most people I know, even the not-so-tech-savvy ones, can tell the difference between whether they've put something on their hard drive or on the Internet. Dropbox folders would probably confuse them, though (i.e., looks like a local folder, but is actually in the cloud).
posted by asnider at 8:41 PM on December 20, 2011


They'll also never have to worry about being able to move to another place and reinvent themselves, because Google will follow them. (Unless they change their name. But then they can't keep their facebook account.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:51 PM on December 20, 2011


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