One thing I always try to keep in mind when trolling the Internet, magazines, newspapers, and random cocktail napkins found in the gutters of the world for something to read while I drink my coffee in the morning is this: Writers need something to write about. Even I, sitting here in my secret underground bunker with crates full of cheap Canadian whisky stacked up around me, wake up every now and then and decide I need to update this blog (like, say, this morning) and stew for a few moments wondering what in the world I can write about. This makes me deeply suspicious of a lot of media; there’s a lot of doom and gloom and alarmism out there, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with the need for content and the fact that pessimism always sells better (IMHO – YMMV).
Recently, I was reading about the supposed “rapid generation gaps” we’re experiencing, wherein every set of kids learn a whole host of technologies that their older siblings, merely five years older, are completely unfamiliar with. For example, people of my generation grabbed onto e-mail with gusto in the 1990s and haven’t let go since, but the generations that followed us view e-mail as a business thing for the old folks, and spend their time texting or IMing or, who knows, inserting their souls into cyberspace and interacting in The Matrix.
Sidenote: By using the words “cyberspace” and “Matrix” in that sentence, I have dated myself dangerously, and the kids are now cheerfully mocking me on IRC channels I’ll never hear about.
I don’t doubt the truth in that article: I’ve seen with my own eyes how people 10 years younger than me use technology differently, and people 10 years younger than them use it differently from them, and so on. Technology is evolving rapidly and kids will be in the forefront of it because unlike folks my age, its kids who by and large use these new technologies at first. When I was a kid, all technology trickled down from my parents. Today it’s the kids who want the new phones, the new media players, the new game systems. So, sure. By the time I’m old enough to retire, there will likely be a baffling array of technological gadgets I can’t comprehend.
But here’s the thing: So what?
Who cares if 10-year olds are communicating using gadgets I’ve never seen and probably couldn’t figure out how to use? They are ten. I will never wish to speak with them.
This is a general rule of thumb I apply to everything like this. If a group of people are using a technology or tool to socialize, I ask myself: Do I really want to hang out and communicate with them? If the answer is “no” (and it almost always is, as I am misanthropic) then I cease to care about whatever it is we’re talking about. This works out much better than you might imagine.
There is, I think, a general fear of growing old and becoming dumb, fueled by the rapid pace of change and the fact that people my age have vivid memories (possibly from yesterday, literally) of having to painfully show our parents or grandparents how to use what we consider simple technologies, like the television after the recent digital signal switchover. We’re used to being the smug hippies who know everything, and it terrifies us that we might one day be sitting in puzzled humility while a cretinous child who doesn’t know anything about good booze or classic pornography smugly teaches us how to use our Teleportation Stick or whatever. Of course, it’s entirely possible to live a full and happy life without knowing anything about the latest gadgets (hell, I’ve been doing it since I was a teenager), it’s just a fear of being left behind that drives this kind of insanity.
Which brings me to a gadget that makes me leaden with boredom despite what the marketing droids want me to believe: 3D Television. If there is a more useless upgrade in the universe, I am not aware of it. While 3D visuals are kind of fun, and I don’t mind wearing stupid glasses, say, once every decade, the fact is I can’t imagine anyone who wants 3D television. But the electronics industries fear nothing like the end of a constant upgrade-cycle; I’m convinced one of the reasons for the fierce resistance to MP3s as a standard digital music format had nothing to do with DRM or quality issues, but rather the simple fact that MP3s can be played on any device these days, so you may never have to purchase another music content delivery item (a CD, for example) or a content decoder (a CD player, for example). For the last 30 years there’s been a constant stream of upgrades that people have bought, and now, there’s little reason to. But I digress.
The point is, no matter how hard they try, no one will convince me that I must have 3D TV or risk being irrelevant to society. I already am irrelevant to society, in that sense of the term. I don’t need wacky glasses to prove that. And so it goes.