The curse of technology

In a recent episode of Young Apprentice, Lord Sugar convened the teams of hopeful apprentices and proceed to set his weekly task. However, this week there was a twist, as Lord Sugar banned his young apprentices from using the internet, which he likened to “cutting off oxygen” from today’s young people.

I understood this as a device to see how the young apprentices were able to adapt to challenging circumstances. Fair enough, I thought. But many of my adult friends found it hilarious to see how the youngsters struggled to complete their tasks wading through fat Yellow Pages without access to the almighty Google on the go.

“Look how they can’t even……” “They’re lost without….” Chortle. Chortle. Fill in the gaps with your favourite generational put down. It appears each generation finds the next’s dependence on the newest technologies something abhorrent which must somehow be cautioned against and avoided at all costs. This is the curse of technology.

Douglas Adams describes this eloquently:

…anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Perhaps we should see how my friends fare if we ban the technologies they are used to…  just for the giggles. See how they communicate without a telephone, or how they take their children to school and get to work without a car or, gasp! entertain themselves in the evenings without television. It would give rise to all sorts of hilarious mishaps. How funny.

What my friends don’t realise is that, just like cars or the telephone, the internet isn’t going anywhere – it’s here to stay – and they’ll just have to live with it.

Just a thought.

What do you think?

Many thanks to Roony for the Mummy photo.

  • http://twitter.com/bootleian John Connor

    Spot on, José. You can’t unring a bell, the toothpaste is out of the tube, the genie out of the bottle. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept that it’s there and work around it and with it. Take note, Mr Gove.

  • http://twitter.com/lauradoggett Laura Knight

    Absolutely José – couldn’t agree more. What is even more irksome is the assumption that the old, established way of things is necessarily superior!

  • Graham Davies

    I rely a lot on my satnav in my car – maybe too much. Some years ago I got lost in Brussels trying to find our hotel - in the days before I had a satnav in my car. I didn’t even know what direction I was travelling in. One of my travelling companions, however, was a retired sea captain. He just looked at his watch and the sun and pointed us in the right direction. We soon found our hotel.

    I wouldn’t say that the old ways are necessarily superior, but they can be a useful fallback. I still take pride in the fact that I don’t need a calculator to do mental arithmetic. I worked in a bar as a student. It was in the days of pounds, shillings and pence. Customers would order two pints of bitter at 1/8d a pint, half a pint of cider ast 1/3d a pint, etc. I kept count all in my head. Now the young man who serves in our local pub can’t work out the price of three pints of lager at £3.50 a pint without going to the till. As for scoring in darts…

  • http://www.josepicardo.com José Picardo

    Thanks for your comment Graham. I would be the first to admit that sometimes the best technology is a biro and some lined paper. I’m not for substituting old for new, but rather for using whatever technology is best for the task at hand. Too many of my friends assign a superior inherent value to using Yellow Pages instead of a smartphone, handwriting instead of word-processing, reading books as opposed to reading off a screen. They are wrong, in my view. Let’s all learn morse code in case the telephone stops working.

    Laura and John, thank you too for your comments. As it is patently obvious to anyone who takes any time at all to give it some thought: new is not necessarily better, but it often is. Take that and eat it for breakfast. 

  • Tim

    Very intereting artcle, Jose.   I recently took a post at an international school in Germany.  It was quit shocking, especially coming from a school that was well resourced, at the lack of technology.  While I was used to the luxury of technology enhancing lessons, I learned (and am learning) to cope with what is available.
    I do, however, feel that the students are more creative and resilient in their learning.  They don’t immediately go to Google for the answer.  While it is great to have the immediate gratification, it is also refreshing to have them discuss possibilites and get an insight to their thought process. 
    While I am working to slowly build up the tech department, I am enjoying many aspects and challenges each day brings.  It is also interesting to look at the culture and lives of students outside of school.  Instead of going home and playing hours of Xbox or watching tv, many are going to sport, music or dance lessons. 
    Like most things, finding the right balance is essential. 

    • http://www.josepicardo.com José Picardo

      Absolutely. It’s not a question of instead of but rather one of  as well as. I would argue though that the internet also makes it possible for them to “discuss possibilities” so as to “get an insight into their though process”. It’s not the tech that’s important here, it’s the teach.

      Thanks for your comment Tim. All the best in Germany.

  • Graham Davies

    I read a lot from the screen, but I prefer to read from a printed page. I have worked as an occasional editor and proof-reader for major publishers for many years. I do the initial checking on screen, but I always do the final check with a printed version – and many other editors and proof-readers do the same. It’s amazing what one misses on screen!
     
    There have been several research studies that have concluded that reading from the screen is around 25% slower than reading from the printed page, e.g. Jakob Nielsen:
    Be succinct! (writing for the Web) (1997)
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9703b.html
     
    Nielsen’s 1997 article does, however, say that improved screen resolution makes reading from the screen easier, but there have also been studies that suggest people tend to skim-read when reading from the screen and don’t take in everything. There are other more recent articles at Nielsen’s website, e.g.
    How little do users read? (2008)
    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/percent-text-read.html
     
    It appears to be a question of training once again – training people how to read efficiently from the screen and, above all, how to use the Web for research. The UCL CIBER project, Information behaviour of the researcher of the future (2008), dispels a number of myths concerning the “Google Generation”. Research carried out by the CIBER project team claims that:
    - young people rely too heavily on search engines, – they view rather than read, – they do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the Web, – they find it difficult to assess the relevance of sources, – they spend too little time evaluating information.
    http://www.ucl.ac.uk/infostudies/research/ciber/downloads/ggexecutive.pdf
     
     

    • http://www.josepicardo.com José Picardo

      Nielsen’s book – which I have also read – is 15 years old. Things have changed since. A lot. Up to date research is required.

      Also, I would confer the Google Generation CIBER project you quote more credence if it said “Without training they view rather than read” or “In the absence of appropriate teaching and modelling they spend too little time evaluating information“.

      Thanks for your comment and links Graham.