Tag: digital native

Time Travel Tips for Digital Natives

Dear Dylan,

There is a growing host of experts who tell me that you, and your generation, are smarter than me and my generation. They say that IQs are becoming higher with each successive generation; something they call the Flynn Effect http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect ; and that your brain will be re-wired by the tools you use and that you will grow even smarter.

Marc Prensky calls you a “digital native” and Don Tapscott calls you a “millennial”. Their studies are now beyond mere guesses. In Tapscott’s book “Grown up Digital” he provides hard data on exactly how you are different. The data says that the morphology of your brain will be reshaped in much the same way that London Taxi cab driver brains are physically changed by the constant challenge of navigating the impossible London spaghetti string maps.

“The things we make, make us” is now a jeep commercial, but the first time I remember that concept was when I read Marshall McLuhan’s “Understanding Media”. McLuhan said that my baby boomer brain was remapped by television; that the medium itself changed my preference for receiving information, how I socialize with others and how I process the world around me. You see Dylan, the last century was the first televised century. We are able now to go back and revisit the major events and re-interpret them from recordings. There are people who are seriously debating whether or not this century in which you were born will see time travel become possible. It is all about sensors.

Moore’s Law is tracking how processor speed is doubling in price performance every eighteen months or so. Recording devices including sensors of various kinds all dance to the Moore’s Law beat and are also improving in price performance. They are beginning to become embedded everywhere, even in cellular phones and tablets. This has caused an explosion of data, most of it recordings from sensors. They say you can not walk through London without being recorded permanently to some cloud-based storage medium. ┬áMaybe some day you will be able to pull up a temporal place in time and stand there and watch yourself walk by. Your children and theirs may be able to see the day you and your wife met and play it back again and again from every possible angle. Google Earth street view is only the beginning, Dylan, but whatever comes will be as natural as breathing to you and your generation.

The first time I caught your sister swiping her hand across the flat screen of our television to change the channel at two years old I knew that something profound was happening to humanity. When she held a birthday party for our robotic vacuum cleaner I had a mild case of post modern future shock that was only quenched by half a bottle of Flaccianello. I do not yet know what the future holds for you and the rest of humanity. Is all of this an evolutionary half step that has us slouching towards some symbiotic relationship with technology? Will we fuse with it to become what Hans Moravec calls “ourselves in more potent form” or will we upload human consciousness into a new substrate, as Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil suppose, surpassing the Singularity http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity ┬áto range out and populate the stars with mechanical robotic bodies?

I hope we will have a lot of time to brood over these and other issues as soon as you have leveled up. In the meantime, remember that your old man may not be as smart as you, but he has experience and wisdom in painful abundance. Keep a defragged section of your morphologically changing brain reserved for what I have to share.