Technology. The word itself is enough to strike fear into the hearts of those of us old enough to remember when a three-day turn around on postal mail was considered speedy communication, especially after spending some time with today’s young technological savants. But when you think about it, it wasn’t that long ago that we were going nuts about the latest and greatest gadget and our own parents were shaking their heads at all those “new-fangled gizmos.”
True, technology is changing at an ever-increasing pace, and it can be hard to keep up. But whether we like it or not, our civilization is built on technology and that’s one thing that’s not likely to change anytime soon. (At least, I hope not – I don’t know about you, but I’m not eager to return to plowing fields with wooden sticks and huddling around dung fires for warmth in the winter.) Maybe it’s time we took a few cues from the younger generation and learned to embrace technology the way they have.
So, what can kids teach us about technology?
1. Technology makes life fun. Much of technology today was created to make life easier, cooler and more fun. From GPS-enabled cell phones that can give you the background of any building or business you point it at, to living room video games that get you up and moving or that you can improve by visiting boosting sites as this page, technology is increasingly blurring the lines between productivity and play. It won’t be too long before we’ll be yelling at the kids to put down their homework because dinner’s getting cold. Spend some time looking at your own routine and see if there isn’t a way to spice up the boring bits with the injection of a little technological fun.
2. It’s okay to pick and choose. Too often, we feel we can’t keep up with everything so we don’t bother keeping up with anything. Kids, however, know that it’s perfectly fine to focus on what’s interesting and important to them and ignore the rest. Some prefer MySpace for online networking, while others gravitate toward Facebook or LiveJournal. Some Twitter, others don’t. Some spend all their time sharing photographs on Flickr, while others are busy writing songs in Garage Band. Kids have no problem latching onto technology that’s fun and interesting to them and not worrying about the stuff that isn’t. Neither should you.
3. The wisdom of distributed genius. Adults seem to have gotten the idea that in order to be competent at or get useful value from a topic, you have to know it all yourself (which, in these days of exponentially expanding information, is increasingly impossible). Rather than trying to know it all themselves, however, the modern generation realizes that it’s more efficient to know where to find someone else who knows what they need to know. Or, more specifically, where to find a lot of people who know what they need to know.
Kids today are constantly using technology to tap into the wellspring of “crowdsourcing” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowdsourcing), the concept that if you get enough people together you can get answers and solutions to almost anything. Need to know whether a particular model of car is sound or a notorious lemon, the best way to grow an avocado tree or what new music is hot? Whether it’s in the form of online car reviews, a plant forum or iTunes music suggestions, crowdsourcing helps you find the information you need by using technology to bring the power of many minds to bear on your specific needs.
4. Self-expression and creativity are for everyone. The world of art, music, writing and other outlets for creative self-expression used to be limited to the very talented and the very wealthy or popular. Oh, sure, anyone who had pen or an instrument could write a book or play music. But getting published, recorded or just getting your work out to others for critique, distribution and collaboration required being good enough, lucky enough and wealthy enough to get past those whose job it was to screen out everything but the most marketable and easily accepted artistic endeavors.
These days, technology has given everyone the means to create, distribute, sell and share the fruits of their creative labor with the entire world. Getting accepted by a traditional publishing house, recording label, gallery or other venue is no longer required. Yes, this means there’s a lot of untalented dreck out there. But it also means that there are infinitely greater instances of variety, depth and even pure genius floating around that might otherwise have been shunted aside because it was unmarketable, only appealed to a limited audience or was just plain lost in the crowd.
5. Everyone has something to say, and a right to be heard. Technology is taking the power of control over public discourse away from the centralized communications and returning it to the masses where it belongs. In this global marketplace, anyone with access to an internet connection and rudimentary computer skills (or access to someone who has them) can speak their mind to anyone and everyone. Because of this, public and private transparency are growing and it’s getting harder and harder for the corrupt, the malicious or the destructively self-interested to keep important information out of the hands of those it affects. And it’s allowing those who would previously go unheard a chance to get their message across to those who in a position to do something about it.
Thanks to Write from Karen for including this post in the Carnival of Family Life, and to Working at Home on the Internet for featuring this post in the Working at Home Blog Carnival.