Remember that joke or the video in which a teenager is badgering an old man? “We have these cool smartphones, MP3 players, video games and high definition TVs. What were you guys doing back then when you were young? You people must be quite dumb without all these things back then.”
“We were busy inventing these things, asshole,” the old man replies.
You must have seen umpteen number of times the older people being made fun of by younger people for not being able to figure out how to use a mobile phone or for not being able to figure out a particular app or for not knowing the name of a particular mobile game. A new study by Dropbox has revealed something that the dads and moms have always known: older people are more comfortable with technology than younger people and there is a solid reason for that.
The previous generation, the moms and dads of today’s teenagers and youngsters, had to dabble with greater challenges when it came to using and implementing technology solutions at home as well as at workplaces. Just imagine someone setting up a computer or a server in the mid-80s or the early 90s. One had to hard code most of the stuff. People needed to use the Linux console or the DOS prompt. Even for simple tasks you needed to write programs in Pearl and C. There were no “user interfaces”. Code for most of the stuff was still being written.
Although both older people and younger people these days use laptops, PCs and mobile phones and tablets, older people also had to use fax machines and other side business tools at workplace. At home they had to figure out how to make a TV or a VCR work rather than everything being configured automatically. Plug and play technologies were non-existent. I remember writing multiple Fortran programs for my father’s calculator.
While the younger generation is good at “using” technology, it really remains to be seen how clever it is about understanding technology and applying it to solve day-to-day problems. Most of their technology exposure involves playing video games on smartphones or posting photos and videos on Snapchat or Facebook.
Coming back to the above-linked Dropbox-backed research, 4073 older people were surveyed from the US, Europe and Australia. On an average, people 55 and over on an average used five different forms of technology a week compared to 4.67 forms of technology per week between the age group of 18-34.
The older people also experience less technology -related stress compared to younger people. Only 24% in the age-bracket of 55+ said that they found using technology stressful compared to 30% under 44.
Whether the research/survey can be trusted or not depends on your opinion, but logically I feel the previous generation is smarter than the current generation but the current generation is more knowledgeable than the previous generation, circumstantially. The problem solving abilities of the previous generation are great because the problems that they had to solve mentally and physically are solved by machines and computer programs for the younger generation. Take for example remembering phone numbers. On an average, I knew around (okay, I belong to the older generation) 10-15 phone numbers of my friends, family members and relatives. These days younger people don’t need to remember phone numbers because, well, they don’t need to. These days one doesn’t even have to dial a number, simply say “Call Daisy” and your mobile phone calls Daisy. No, I’m not saying fill up your brain with all sorts of redundant information, but your brain should be used to remembering some bit of information.
There was a reason why people like Socrates didn’t like writing. They thought that memorising information was much better than noting it down because when you note it down, you sort of disembody it. People like Socrates thought writing was for the silly people because they didn’t want to tax their brains.
We have come very far from those days when writing was still being invented and people were still learning how to preserve knowledge rather than remember it and pass it on to the next generation verbally, but if they were remembering very complex philosophical thoughts just by listening and repeating, I think that was much cooler than consigning those thoughts to massive books and then having to refer to those books each time you want to recall something. Again, it’s a matter of opinion, and more of a rhetorical musing.