Skynet, Can You Hear Me Now
by Genta Guitron
photo by: Tomasz Frankowski
I recently read an article written by WIRED entitled, “Inside the Hybrid Digital-Analog Lives of Children.” It reminded me of a conversation I had with my dad a couple of weeks ago. At 71, He still leaves for work every morning before dawn. He still works twelve hours a day. He always comes home with a smile on his face.
But the world around him has changed. Technology has surpassed the realm of take-it-or-leave-it and instead stands on the brink of making George Orwell roll over in his grave. For the first time, kids don’t just think they’re smarter than the adults around them. As the WIRED article pointed out, children are technology ‘natives.’ Where does this leave the rest of us?
When my dad’s company decided to reduce the amount of paper they use, it meant their workforce needed to learn a proprietary software installed on new tablets. My dad said that the corporate trainer kept saying, “It’s so easy to use, I can even do it on my phone.” For my dad and the other technology novices in the conference room, it felt like they were about to become a statistic. He came home from work without his trademark smile. I understood his anxiety. Who hasn’t felt anxious before a first date, or wondered if you’ll measure up in a new job when all the people around you are brilliant?
The trainer was a technology native like the kids in the WIRED article; but should the overwhelming sense that we’re swimming in foreign waters make us afraid to use the plethora of apps, websites, software and devices available to us?
It would be a mistake to distrust or dislike something just because we don’t instantly understand it. To do so makes it that much easier to close ourselves off from experiences and people that we don’t immediately recognize. It would also be unfortunate to assume that just because we don’t quickly understand something that it’s terrible for our kids. The real issue is perspective. If most situations are 10% the problem and 90% how we look at it, then how do we change our vantage point when it comes to the use of technology in our daily lives.
My dad was convinced he wasn’t capable of learning how to use the new work tablets, so I asked him a couple of questions to gauge the accuracy of his statement. He was born in 1948.
Obvious questions were: “Dad, you have a smartphone. Did you grow up with cell phones?” No. “Dad, they didn’t have apps while you were growing up; but don’t you use apps to check the news, get directions, read books, and study subjects that interest you?”Yes.
After our conversation, my dad changed his perspective. Armed with the confidence that he had mastered the cell phone, his google apps, and ROKU, etc. he realized that he could learn to use the tablet and the software. Fast forward a few weeks, and his smile is back. He not only uses his tablet with ease, but he troubleshoots and helps others learn how to use their devices. I’m so proud of him.
It’s true we may not be native to the technology landscape, like our kids, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful converts or naturalized citizens of this brave new world.