Monday, February 26, 2018

Age and Technology

 One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. So says Jaques in As You Like It.
He then goes on to enumerate them from infant to old age in rather less than flattering terms. And so  it is with modern technology, at least in my view. Infants from about the age of three can navigate touch screens almost by instinct, since they're too young to read, and can thoroughly mess up a tablet's or phone's settings, make calls and lose saved data as a result. Anyone who has tried to keep an infant amused on a journey by delegating the task to technology would be wise to "baby proof" the device first or forever hold their peace!

The 'Whinlng schoolboy' fares somewhat better, being able to read if not understand the apps on various devices. I'm sure that instinct still plays a part, though, as any seven year old seems able to whizz through various settings and interconnected devices as sure in their touch as a mountain goat in their footing. Some years ago a friend bought the latest VHS player/recorder (remember them?) and had difficulty installing it so that it worked correctly. He rang the shop for help and was surprised to be asked if he had children. My friend conceded that he had a seven year old. "Give it to him" said the shopkeeper, which my friend did. In no time, without consulting manual or adult, the boy had set up the player perfectly and it worked for many years.

The lover is next, so adept and familiar with new or even older technology that they may even have taken a course. Fleet of finger they dazzle onlookers with their sure touch, and humiliate them by the disdain shown to the uninitiated. When asked, they resort to jargon and acronyms to demonstrate their superiority in the subject. Hubris, I suppose, is part of character at a certain age and it finds a perfect outlet in the young technophile.

Shakespeare's fourth and fifth ages I may, for my purpose, combine. Our lover has matured into the IT consultant, the teacher, the professional computer shop worker or salesman. Day on endless day they grapple with their beloved technology, embracing new innovations and developments. Their hubris may have diminished a bit, but they now display impatience to those uninitiated in the finer points of technology lore. They remain, however, on top of their subject.

Eventually though the speed of change begins to leave our expert in its wake. Valiant efforts are made to stay abreast of new technology by absorbing the jargon. Detail is learned in secret away from the workplace so as not to lose face. Practice is exercised by actually reading instruction manuals and relating the learning to the new technology or applications to preserve an appearance of expertise.

Finally, as with all of us, technology outstrips the ability to learn or remember. This can be related to now clumsy fingers or failing mental recall. Memories of the halcyon days of youth abound and fascinate the grandchildren who regard the stories as from the Stone Age. And so generation succeeds generation, while our hero 's erstwhile expertise fades and he meets obscurity sans knowledge, sans expertise, sans everything.


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