The development of new technology will continue. It is not a case of the world coming to an end or moral values being eroded
ISTANBUL — Recentlythere have been many articles on the theme of "What is the world coming to?" This phrase is used after human tragedies, terrorist attacks or reprehensible acts of government oppression. But lately it seems to being used more often in relation to new technology, an expression of wonder and apprehension.
It will not be news to any reader that technology is changing our world day by day. When I was in high school I painstakingly devoted two months of my life to learn to touch type. I now see my young adult daughter type as quickly and efficiently as me, using far fewer fingers, and with having had no training. Cell phones, iPods and a variety of technological gadgets have taught the younger generation to deal with keys and buttons in a totally different way. They are the "natives" in this land of technology, and we are merely the immigrants.
However, as always, it is us immigrants who stand by and shake our heads in dismay when we see what the native generation is up to. We fail to understand the lingo; as such, we miss a great deal of the conversation. We worry that children don't want to read books; we fret that they don't write letters or communicate in grammatical sentences. We worry that everyone is corresponding on WhatsApp, convinced that this is the end of civilization as we know it. We find it distressing that families text one another when in the same house or even room. The image of two or more people sharing a table at a restaurant, failing to communicate with one another but rather texting while they eat, not looking at one another, brings on palpitations.
However, the natives are not restless; indeed they are content.This is nothing more than the generation gap taking on a new and innovative twist. Rather than rock and roll, long hair and flowers or the fast, expensive yuppie lifestyle, it is this innovative technology that is causing the rift.
My mother had a hard time rounding up four active children for dinnertime. The solution was a bell that was rung to bring everyone to the table. This was not novel; school and church bells were used for the same purpose - to attract people's attention. When a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have the top floor of the house to myself. My parents tried many ways to shout up to me that 1) it was dinner time, 2) the phone was for me and 3) there was someone at the door for me. I usually had my headphones on and was oblivious to the world, so the school bell technique didn't work. Whatever the reason, the result was that my father rigged a simple doorbell between the kitchen and my room. It vibrated, so I felt it rather than heard it most of the time. This was efficient and alerted me to the fact that I was "wanted." The principle is the same one that I use when I send an SMS or WhatsApp to my children that it is dinnertime, or ask how about a cup of tea? The idea is the same; it is just the technology that confuses. When something is new, it is a very human reaction to worry about where this technology will lead; the consternation is usually amplified in older generations, while the younger generations revel in the novelty.
A British telecom advertisement from the 1980s sums up this generational confusion. Beatty (our heroine) walks into her son's "home office" and admiring the room, says: "Very high tech, isn't it? Marvelous what they can do nowadays," looking uncomprehendingly at a fax machine. "What does it do?"
Melvin, her son, answers, "It transmits documents down a telephone wire."
"Ohhhh. You must have to roll them up ever so small," obviously having no clue what he is talking about.
Melvin replies, patiently, very patiently, "You put your documents in, dial a number and they come out the other end."
Then Beatty's husband gets into the act. "What other end?"
In the final scene, on the drive home Beatty mutters, "I'd never want one of those fax things. Nothing but aggravation.
Bad enough Melvin never phones; he would never fax me either. Waiting for two things not to ring. Well, one to ring, one to ping. I could find myself answering the microwave."Thanks to technology I was able to find this ad and watch it so many years after it was broadcast. (http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=Xfo5geZxUQA)
When this ad came out in the 1980s, I thought how appropriately it reflected my parents' approach to technology.Now I realize that it is still pertinent but it is my generation that is in the position of "Ohhh, and what does it do?"
Many years ago my father was given an iPod as a present and brought it to Turkey. He had left the instruction manual at home. He gave it to me to figure out. While struggling to merely turn it on, my 13-year-old daughter picked it up and immediately started to use it although she had never seen one before. I looked on in awe. My father gifted it to her, on the assumption that he would never be able to figure it out, even if she tried to explain it to him.
I do think that the loss of interest in writing letters and reading books is sad but it is the content of books and letters that is important, not the material. If children are reading and writing online, then can this really be considered to be a loss? We went from carving and painting our emotions and thoughts on stone or papyrus to inscribing them in books and letters. We went from letters carried by messengers or pigeons to the Pony Express to DHL. Now we have email and Kindle.
Even if the words are shortened, abbreviated or changed, this does not alter the emotions, the ideas. Goodbye is derived from "God be with you." There are many other words that have been abbreviated, for example auto or bus. In the 1970s the old dears on the London bus would say TTFN, or ta (goodbye) for now. How is this different from "LOL?"Things change.
The development of new technology will continue. It is not a case of the world coming to an end or moral values being eroded. Now young men rather than making the effort of going around to their girlfriend's house in the middle of the night and throwing stones at the window to wake her up simply text her. The moral line is still there; perhaps the fear that technology will erode this line is justified. But let's put our faith in human nature. Many people have long since gotten over the novelty of the cell phone and now resent the invasion of privacy into their lives. Those that don't would have found other ways to cross such lines before, just in nontechnological ways.
My inner Luddite sometimes shrieks out in agony, "Another password I have to memorize? Another piece of technology that ostensibly makes my life easier? NO!" Sometimes technology does take the poetry away, eliminating the human touch. But isn't it time we just embrace the changes and admit that perhaps as the generations progress the older generation will always be at a loss to understand what the younger generation is doing, and as a result, disapprove? My parents couldn't understand how I could read or study with my Walkman playing in my ears. I can't understand how my children can eat, text, and read at all the same time. But they do. And is this not the role of parents anyway? To disapprove of the younger generation? So, as you can see, things really don't change and the place the world is coming to isn't really anywhere new.
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