Being an old person in the tech world that the young have created can be disconcerting, like trying to navigate sand dunes on roller skates. For assistance, I pay one guru to manage my hard drive and storage and two additional gurus to keep me out of bogs in what we lovingly call the internet. Nonetheless, that expertise doesn’t prevent me from falling into virtual traps created by virtual spiders in the virtual world. I refer not to the offspring of Aragog. I refer to a species that lurks in the world-wide-web. Its purpose is to scan content and index what they find for search engines. Presumably, these creatures have no other motive than to catalog. Nonetheless, at times, they appear to have dark intentions — building obstacles rather than pathways to enlightenment.
Not demons, as I say, they are the work of twenty-somethings who worship speed as if it were a god. Their penchant “to simplify” generally results in something more complex. Try alphabetizing the contacts of your email list, for example.
Contrary to its name, the Help button is a black hole of useless information. An individual will find no information about alphabetizing there. Nor will it be found in a book for dummies. A person can spend days thumbing through a table of contents or an index and come up dry. The problem is too simple to be explained, apparently. One guru, whom I eventually consulted, is of the AARP generation. He, too, needed time to puzzle my question out.
Youth may find delight in the mess they are making for older minds. I warn them, however, theirs is a Pyrrhic victory. Without their knowledge, we elderly are changing the real world in ways their virtual spiders have yet to recognize. The reason lies with longer life spans and a declining birthrate, not algorithms.
If the young would listen, I’d advise them to value speed less. What the world needs now and into the future isn’t the electric scooter but more wheelchair curb cuts. Already, smartphones are a tulgey wood for a chunk of the population. A young entrepreneur would do well to think less about MP3 apps and more about improving hearing aids.
Do I exaggerate? Not by much.
Consider this. While the elderly grow in numbers, they are becoming poorer. Already, 45% of retiring Baby Boomers “have no retirement savings.” (The Graying of America,” (The Week, August 23, 2019, pg. 11.) Worse, Social Security benefits in the coming years are expected to decline. And, given the country’s mounting deficit, Medicare will probably disappear faster than a glass of cold beer in the Gobi desert. As one MIT Age Lab researcher observed, “We’re entering into this new era that we just have not seen before.” (Ibid, pg. 11.)
So, you bright, young, shiny things, have a little humility. You’re not shaping the world as much as you think. Nor will the world be able to afford, much less understand, all your complex gadgets. To prosper, slow down a little and keep pace with your elders. We’re more than the past. We’re also your future.