Have you noticed how some people either don’t like change or are frightened by it. I suppose it has always been like this. Gutenberg’s printing press was seen as a real threat to many, especially those in the establishment of the time. At the time of the Industrial Revolution we had people going around smashing machinery. They said it was evil whereas the truth probably was that they were scared of what it would do to the status quo. Things are no different today and we have many people bemoaning the rise of the Internet, mobile phones, social networking and much more. It’s as if those who persist along this path are doomed to live in a frighteningly terrifying world of the future.
This fear of the future is often spread by people who have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are or by people who are literally scared of change, who like things as they are. If it were left to them we would still be living in caves and hunting mammoth. I remember, many years ago, reading a book by Tom Peters where he said that we should do away with the old saying, “If it ain’t broke leave it well alone.” and change it to, “If it ain’t broke BREAK IT!”
Socrates once said, “It destroys memory and weakens the mind, relieving it of work that makes it strong. It is an inhuman thing.” The ‘it’ that he was talking about was writing. In his day the art was in storytelling and being able to keep things in your head to be able to recount them. I wonder what he would have made of blogging? But more recently Susan Greenfield the neuroscientist, talking about social networking, has been quoted as saying, “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted to buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”
The technology that surround us and the uses it can be put to are changing day by day. In fact the pace of this change alone can be quite frightening. But we need to grasp the moment and discover how we best use these new ideas. I think that what we need to do is not to compare what we had before or think about how this might help us to do particular tasks differently but rather to imagine what new ideas are going to emerge from having these technologies available to us. In my humble opinion I think that Susan Greenfield is wrong – if you watch young children with iPads or an iPod Touch or watch them coming to grips with the intricacies of the latest game they are absorbed, their attention span is great as they problem solve and experiment. How these youngsters use and develop these new technologies is going to be the answer to how they, in the future, begin to solve some of the problems that we have created in the world.
The ‘experts’ have a habit of looking into the future and getting it wrong. In 1927 HM Warner of Warner Bros. said, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” Ken Olsen, Chairman & Founder of Digital equipment Corporation said, “There is no reason why anyone would want to have a computer in their home.” and Decca Recording Company when rejecting The Beatles said, “We don’t like their sound and guitar music is on the way out.”