Talkin bout my digital degeneration

The My Generation generation faces the Me Generation: a world populated by Digital Natives, and the prospect of their digital degeneration.

I thought we were over the collision of generational cultures. After all my son and I share a taste for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd (and the Who). As we speak, my teenage nephew is eagerly devouring my hand-me-down vinyl collection. But I'm not in the clear. Reading Sven Birkerts' "You are What you Click" 1 it seems the generational collision will instead be a collision of world-views between the real and the virtual and between the considered and the flitting. Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains is right about the consequences of maleability of the human brain - I find it hard to believe my son's total disinterest in reading comes from the same genetic makeup that I do. (It flickered into life when he was about eight then died at ten in the face of facebook and youtube and Call of Duty).

But the biggest issue for humanity is not the generational divide which seems to be a constant of the last century in our rapidly advancing societies. The great disaster is the coincidence (give or take a hundred years) of post-modernist thought with digital reality. When every culture and belief and system of thought has value then none has value. What a shame that the few left who can still think coherently will be inclined to sweep away a thousand years of thought with the casual insolence of post-modernism. The 20th Century already dispensed with quality and authenticity - we were well on the road to The Triumph of the Airheads, as signposted by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now we will lose appreciation of reality, thought and maturity, as called out by Carr.

The human race advances by standing on the shoulders of giants. Progress took off with the ability to record and transmit knowledge between generations. Each step forward results from a synthesis of what went before. If what went before is learned in sound-bites and given scant fleeting consideration, progress forward will grind to a halt. I'm reminded of the planet run entirely by hairdressers and phone sanitisers in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We'll degenerate into a world full of daffy new-age airheads mis-using knowledge for superficial and pointless ends. Read the papers (anyone?) to see how far down that track we already are.

For proponents of the digital revolution to shrug and say "it is what it is" abdicates all responsibility for ensuring the quality of life of our descendants - for leaving them a useful legacy. Scientific thought - the greatest creation of our species - was already rotting from the middle thanks to post-modernism. Now it is being eroded from the outside thanks to its own creation, digital degeneration.

1. I bet almost nobody read Birkerts' article - it prints on five pages. (I printed it to read it, and I still measure length in pages). It is a good statement of position but it suffers from the same weakness he criticises other authors for, "retracted doomsaying": gets all worked up then ends with a whimper. Then again, so does my post.


Post-modern editing

"You Are What You Click". Not "... Think."

You are what you eat

Yes, those truth-fixated pedants should consider my version equally as valid as the original. Thanks, fixed :)

Reminds me of a comic conversation - I can't recall the source:
"Healthy body, healthy mind!"
"oooh, nobody warned me there were side effects!"

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