Sunday, February 03, 2008

Charlie's Diary: Youth of today

Charlie's Diary: Youth of today

This is worth reading. I was going to post a comment, but realised it was a bit on the long side, so I should probably spin it off here.

I think Charlie Stross' gedankenexperiment really illustrates the speed of change of technology in our society, and the fact that post 30s, we tend to settle in to some kind of happy equilibrium, just keeping up with the essentials. I wonder if that's something to do with the average age of parenthood? Anyway.

I wanted to offer back a long view on this - that it's not just the change for the youth, it's the change in the span of a single human life that is now quite incredible.

When I was little - around 7 or 8 - I had a recording of Bach on a cassette. My grandfather was babysitting me one evening, and my player (a flat one with buttons along the front and a flip up lid) chewed up the tape. (Recorded Music playing with moving parts - how quaint!)

My grandfather came to find out why i was crying, and himself cried because he couldn't help; he just didn't understand the problem, or how to fix it.

Now, he was born in 1896, and died in 1986. So, in his lifetime, he saw
The Motor Car become comoditised
Powered human flight
Mechanised Warfare
Recorded music as a comodity
Commoditised photography
Comodditised Paperbacks
The Supermarket
Cinema in every town
The Telephone
Transatlantic voice communication
Space Flight, man on the moon
The Welfare State
Nuclear Weapons
The computer
The home computer
Home Video
Car Phones
Credit Cards
ATM Machines

It's quite a list. Is change going to be so palpable to this generation? Is change accelerating? Is it just the C20th that will see such a radical shift, or was this accelerating speed of change set in train from the moment of the industrial revolution? How will society adapt to this speed of change? What will it do to people? Is there an upper limit on the human capacity to assimilate change?

I don't have answers to this, but I think it bears thinking about.