When I was ten years old my dad took my brother and some friends to a drive-in movie. He had a convertible and thought that it’d be a great car for watching a drive-in movie. He didn’t care what the movie was; it was about an outdoor movie experience. He also wanted to show his date that he knew how to entertain young kids.
The movie was weird, and about 10 minutes in it started to seem inappropriate, but my dad wasn’t going to admit to his date that he’d made the wrong choice.
The movie was called Wild in the Streets, which was about the power of young people and how they’d take over the world. The idealistic protesters seized control of the government and went crazy with reform. Eventually they passed a law that required everyone over 30 to retire. Those over 35 were sent to “re-education camps” and were loaded up on LSD. I asked my dad what LSD was. He said it was time to leave, and with wheels spinning as he hastily exited the parking lot.
So many questions persisted (which obviously my dad wasn’t going to answer): Why were these young kids so eager to take over the world and push the people over 30 aside? And how could anyone over 30 be considered “too old” to manage society? Making old people take mind-altering drugs? Could anything like that happen? Was my dad afraid of these wild young hippies?
Of course the flower children and protesters didn’t take control of the society, at least not in their youth. And the notion that people under 30 would somehow have skills superior to elders is obviously still crazy. Or is it?
Today, technology has crept into our lives and the early adopters are young kids. They start with video games, like my son who beat Bowser in Mario Brothers when he was five (I never got past the first few levels; I blame my law job). They learn powerpoint and have to present with it in grade school. They learn how to get around undesired restrictions put in place by adults who don’t understand technology.
When my daughters were in high-school their teachers routinely asked them to help them with their computers. Some of their friends’ parents asked their daughters for help with Powerpoint (the kids knew all the settings and options; the parents barely knew how to start the program).
When my daughter started her major in Business at UGA she was required to do an internship, ostensibly to learn from an experienced business person. Instead, the woman who ran an event planning business relied on Bridget to grow a core part of her company: social media. Bridget understood social media because she’d been using it since before there was even a name for the thing we today call “social media.” Neither the woman nor Bridget learned much, but the woman got a free intern who added major value to her business that she couldn’t figure out how to add.
Bridget is obviously under 30. And she was under 18 when she first started helping adults with their technology problems. And Bridget, by the way, has no interest in technology. At least not any more interest than the average young adult.
But the interest and knowledge that young adults (and even teenagers) have is exponentially higher than adults over 40 or 50. Maybe the “digital divide” is as much about age differential as it is about socio-economic differences. And maybe that will put young people in a position to seize certain kinds of power that will wind up surprising older adults.
I’ve gotten to the point where it’s too hard to work with people who don’t understand how to use technology intelligently. When I go to the ABA TechShow, where every lawyer there versed in technology (or at least very interested in it), life becomes easy. People who are comfortable typing on a keyboard, and who readily download and learn new software on their own, are people I can work with. Together we can get things done fast, without having to stop to define small tasks.
I have friends and acquaintances who have no idea how burdensome their ignorance is to someone who can easily navigate tech-hurdles. I’m not sure what will happen to them, but since the rate of technological change is itself changing at a growing rate the prospects aren’t comforting. I feel sorry for those people, and I want to help them. But not so much that I’m willing to let them drag me down.
I hope I don’t find myself fumbling through this simple online shopping operation. But, whatever happens to me, don’t let them force feed me the LSD.