I was born in 1982. I fall right at the cusp (arguably) at the end of Generation X and the beginning of Generation Y, or the Millennials as they call it.
I've always loved history. I'm interested in the contemporaries of a certain age and what life was like for them. It's difficult to classify and characterize the present state of our culture at any time because when you're in it and it's your present, there's a whole lot of things going on and you have no idea if they'll truly be a fixture in history or a minor blip on the radar. It's only when we step back that we can truly grasp the profound effect things have had on our culture and our history.
Looking back now, having lived a little, I realize that we, as a generation, have lived–and are living through–some of the most important changes in history. Most obviously, of course, the Internet and the digital age. And what's better is that we know what it was like before the Internet. There has been a lot of technological advancements in the last 200 years–the telephone, the television, moving pictures (or movies as we know it). And the Internet is the latest advancement that will effect us forever. Some people have likened the introduction of the Internet to the introduction of the printing press in terms of how it effects things, but I would argue that the Internet is much bigger than the printing press.
I don't think we can determine exactly what effect the Internet will have in terms of how we live our lives in the future. But we definitely see the world as being much closer than ever before. We can reach people and information from any part of the world with a single click. That's pretty incredible! And it's amazing that we're living through the early days of the Internet and computer technology.
I remember hand-writing my school work and moving from writing research points to rough drafts to finished, final, polished copy, all by hand. Now there are computers in the classroom and you type everything up! Plus you have access to a phone, a camera, social media and messaging, and all of the Internet right in your pocket. Think about that. Just think about what wasn't possible just a mere 30 years ago and what's possible now.
Of course, with change comes uncertainty and some awkward growing pains. The side effect of this is that many of us don't yet know how to effectively use this technology to affect positive change, but I think we're getting to that. Remember when websites were simple, ugly, dry documents that only PhD candidates would sit through to read? Remember when HTML and CSS was starting to grow, how many blinking and scrolling banners with jarring pink text there was? Remember when we designed websites for a fixed width of 640 x 480 or, max, 800 x 600? Remember when we made mixed tapes? Remember when we tossed said tapes for custom burned CD's? Remember when MP3 players were introduced and when Apple took that to the next level with their iPod and then revolutionized personal computing and the telephone with the iPhone? Heck, remember when cell phones became ubiquitous? I didn't have my first, very own cell phone until I was 19 and that felt like freedom. Now, 8 year olds can't keep up with the latest playground trend without one. And cell phones nowadays are not just phones either. Just think about how technology has changed and what we've seen and experienced in our time. It's pretty incredible.
I hope that we, as a generation, can harness this technology for good and positive change that will help future generations. I have high hopes for the next Generation Z-ers. They haven't really known life without this technology so they're primed to do something great with it. We're starting to see how the next wave of technology will effect our lives, from Google glass, Interaxon's brain sensing head band, to wearable technology and wired homes. There's some great things to come. I hope that in the midst of all this innovation we take the time to identify and forecast the potential side effects, of which we know nothing about at the moment, and take that into consideration. I think our increasing awareness and understanding of human rights, the environment and mental health will help us along that path.
I wrote this post because I want to remind myself that we're living through some incredible technological innovations and taking a step back will help us realize and appreciate what we have and can do with technology. Step out of the mentality of always wanting something better, bigger–or smaller in technology's case–and most importantly newer. It's easy to get lost and caught up in this mindset, but remember that the advancements we're living through today and how we use it will effect the future and leave a mark in history. I don't want us to be remembered as the generation of trend-consumers, always updating, outdoing and out-consuming the latest and greatest just for bragging rights. We're living through some incredible things, let's do something incredible with them!
Keep your eyes open people and take a moment to take it in, we're gonna have some great stories for our grandkids!