I was born in the 1980's. This is an age my generation visually associates to only through nostalgic movies or some other cultural phenomenon. To my parents' generation, it was a time that seems to have just past, while simultaneously also hopelessly far away. There are many things that make that time look far away and so different. But to me, the biggest will always be - The Internet.
Fast forward to 2012, where we carry a video camera, a phone, a computer and 100 libraries of congress in our front pocket. It occures to me that one day my generation will be the last generation to remember life without internet, even if some of us only remember that time as children. It may seem a small thing, but it is not. The internet has changed so many things in our lives. To some the change has been subtle, perhaps they use a bit more email than real mail, maybe they read a little news online or chat on skype with a loved one far away instead of using the telephone.
To my generation, the internet came into our lives by storm, clutching and grabbing hold of our collective attention like a hungry octupus, forever changing whatever our future was about to be. I can't speak for my generation (although I just did), but to kids like me, the internet was a dream come true, a page out of a science fiction book suddenly translated into living reality. Instant communication, endless information.
And while many adults were still eyeing this new technology with distrust, we took to this new toy like sparrows to flight. We made new inventions to improve communications, played until we could play no more, and gossiped, and gossiped, and gossiped. You see, a person has many thoughts a day, some good, some bad, and some actually genius. However, this person may be immediately distracted by a new thought or memory. However, plugged in, we began recording these thoughts in a rush that began like a stream and is now like a tidal wave. And while in the past we seem to forget 99% of the thoughts that blaze in our minds as we walk down the street, now it seems we keep quite a few more, and not only keep but publish, and not only publish but religiously read. For teens, those socially curious yet socially inept of all creatures, it was an offer we simply couldn't refuse.
I think that in the back of our minds, my generation always thought, and still does, that the amount of time we spend on the internet will go down eventually, that it was 'just a phase', and that when we are married or have kids we won't see much of it any more. Responsibilities, if nothing else, would motivate us to spend more time in the real world. For many, that is true. Now, I personally sit in front of a screen about 10-14 hours a day, only 9 of those are my work hours. I know many that have the same habit. But now, as the job market is centered more and more around the web, for many the question is how many hours a day they get to be off it. It fills our time until the real world becomes one of two choices, both equally valid.
Ours is an oral generation, a quick fix generation, dependant on constant reminders that we are socially connected to others by facebook, twitter, google+, pin-it, youtube and a million other forums and hobby sites. We find ourselves perturbed by issues coming from both sides of this reality. We are plugged in not only to people around us, but people all over the world. This isn't a bad thing, certainly not in proportion. But when taken to extremes, we find ourselves losing focus, dividing our attention between so many things that we will all eventually be diagnosed with ADD.
The Internet and the Job Market - A Blessing and a Curse
The internet did amazing things for private inventors and novice electrical engineers. Its first gift was simply the sharing of knowledge. By providing them with copious amount of blueprints, How-Tos and technical advice from other engineering gods, they have, almost instantly, given them knowledge that 30 years ago would have taken them years to amass, find and correlate. They can bypass mistakes by reading other forum members' mistrials, they can get expert advice at practicly any time. They walk tethered to the most vast knowledge base this race has ever known.
And it shows. The number of patents registered has steadily increased from year to year, and keeps rising. If in 1998 there were 163 thousand patents registered, 2011 registered 247 thousand. That's about a 50% increase in just 14 years, and the difference is growing. If inventions moved this fast in the 15th century, we'd all have our own spaceship and live forever by now. it is as awe inspiring as it is terrifying to contemplate what the next decade will bring. This technological revolution is going fast, so fast, in fact, that many of us find ourselves bewildered, even scared at times, by how quickly one technology replaces another without respite, faster and faster. And as we develop better technology, the means to create that technology become greater themselves, and interconnect to create bigger discoveries in even less time.
And while I personally enjoy the heights we are getting to with our technological revolution, I am also worried about the job market, that is becoming more and more centered around technological advances. What is even more alarming is the total lack of effort to stabilize jobs that are dependant on techonolgy that will soon become outdated. Being replaced by machines is the least of our worries. It has now become being replaced by people who have had 19 years less overall experience, but 1 year more experience using a certain type of software invented 3 years ago. So while we are creating more jobs, we are also losing as many or more, and none are long term.
We never stopped to thought of how to deal economically with this fast forward trend. We never stopped to think how much we'd give to get. And we never stopped to think about the gap this will cause between the generations. Now, it just seems we never stop to think at all.
There are things that can be done. We can demand the companies teach employees all new advances and skills required to continue to hold on to their jobs, unless they are actually lazy or incompetent. We can demand that the universities involve more practical experience in their courses, up to 50% and more, because many students find themselves with outdated information by the time they are at their 3rd year.
And we can try to slow down. Slow everything down, the amount of money flowing out there is heavily going towards new technologies without stablizing the technologies we already have. We need not only to advance forward but also plant firm steps, or else we will trip and fall.
Written by: S.K