: Post-literate technological Age


CubaMark
Aug 18th, 2009, 10:55 PM
TidBITS Opinion: Have We Entered a Post-Literate Technological Age? (http://db.tidbits.com/article/10493)

"Hi, this is tech support. How may I help you?"

"I can't get on the Google."

"OK, what browser are you using?"

"I told you - Google."

"Let's step back for a second. What program are you running on your computer to access the Web?"

"I don't know - I just Google when I want to find something."

"Perhaps we should go a bit further back. What icon do you click on when you want to use Google?"

"The picture? It's blue and kind of round, I think."

"OK, that's probably Internet Explorer. Can you load any Web sites other than Google?"

"If I can't get on Google, how can I load any other Web sites?!"

Full Article via TidBits (http://db.tidbits.com/article/10493)

The Doug
Aug 19th, 2009, 09:12 AM
The future is dimwitted.

chas_m
Aug 19th, 2009, 09:28 AM
No, TidBITS, we are not entering nor have entered a post-literate technological age. What we HAVE done is "invented" roughly 30% more English language (another 100,000 words) in the last couple of decades. We currently have 5x the number of words available to us that Shakespeare had (which is why he was forced to invent a number of them!), and machines and technologies that didn't even exist when we were children are now stock standard life equipment.

Today, a person can learn more new information from reading a week's worth of The New York Times than a person 100 years ago would have learned across their ENTIRE LIFETIME. It's a tremendous amount to absorb, and compounding the problem is that our educational system here in North America for the past 40 years has been based on "memorise, test, and discard," meaning most of the generations walking around today have had their brains trained to DROP knowledge that doesn't prove immediately or constantly useful VERY quickly in favour of NEW information, almost without regard to the new information's value.

So, quite naturally, people as they get older have an increasingly harder time absorbing new information, and "fall back" to comparative older information to help them along. How many of us here have said we were going to "tape" a TV show when in fact we mean that the DVR is going to record it? Speaking of tape, how many of us have accidentally used (or heard contemporaries use) the term "tape" when they obviously meant "disc" (per computers). Do you know why that happened? Because a neuron misfired, and "fell back" to a similar concept with a different "label" on it for us 40-somethings. That's how the brain works.

There's a thread on this very forum where a poster -- who I would guess is about my (middle) age -- uses the term "IBM/PC" when he meant "Microsoft." The slightly younger among us probably s******ed a bit. The really young members here were probably very confused!

It's not the start of dementia, it's perfectly normal -- and unless you are quite young, you probably do it more often than you realise. :)

Thus "Google" comes to mean "the whole of the web, including the browser," and "Office" becomes "any and every Microsoft product," "any vehicle that I am using" becomes "the car," "Starbucks" comes to mean "any coffee shop" and so forth. This sort of thing is only occasionally down to actual ignorance; it's just the brain's way of dealing with so many new things to learn. Computer technology is a particular sore spot because it really does completely change every decade or two, and over time a certain amount of resentment is created that every time you think you finally understand it, they change it all around.

Compare that to, say, the pace of change in automobiles, or books. Now imagine yourself being old enough to remember when those things were fairly new or at least novel, and all the things you've had to learn about (or unlearn what you previously knew, like when records became CDs and are now becoming digital files) since then. Don't mistake a nearly-full hard drive (brain) for an inability to learn, and don't mistake a young person's knack for quickly grasping concepts to be superior to an older person's slower understanding -- we have more "assimillating" to do to "make room" for more information, but after easily 25 years or more of working with older computer users, I find that once they actually do grab onto the information, they often turn out to be more "inventive" with it than I am -- because they can "correlate" the new info into their much larger "database" of previous experiences and produce inventions I am not capable of producing.

So, bottom line: Adam's entire premise is hopelessly flawed. Everybody who's reading this (well 98+ percent I would imagine) are of age to be able to drive a car, and most of us probably do. But how many of us really understand the mechanics of car engines well? Know the names of all the parts of the car, or could identify even the most "important" or "common" ones that way? How many of us have THAT level of understanding of the machine we drive?

Thus it is with computers. We drive em, but 90% of people have no idea what's going on under the hood. :)

Dr.G.
Aug 19th, 2009, 09:47 AM
"Today, a person can learn more new information from reading a week's worth of The New York Times than a person 100 years ago would have learned across their ENTIRE LIFETIME. It's a tremendous amount to absorb, and compounding the problem is that our educational system here in North America for the past 40 years has been based on "memorise, test, and discard," meaning most of the generations walking around today have had their brains trained to DROP knowledge that doesn't prove immediately or constantly useful VERY quickly in favour of NEW information, almost without regard to the new information's value."

Sad, but all too true, chas. My son is amazed at how much knowledge I have that I am able to retrieve faster than he can access on a Google search.

screature
Aug 19th, 2009, 09:49 AM
Very good post chas_m.

Although to some extent I am a bit worried for the "texting"/twittering generation, they may be literate, strictly speaking, but will they be able to coherently write anything that requires an interconnected chain of thought that leads to a logical conclusion... oh, like say a term paper.

hayesk
Aug 19th, 2009, 12:58 PM
The future is dimwitted.

Not really, just that everyone is expected to use a computer, but nobody is expected to actually get proper training.

Why should I know what a web browser is if nobody ever told me?

Dr.G.
Aug 19th, 2009, 01:09 PM
Very good post chas_m.

Although to some extent I am a bit worried for the "texting"/twittering generation, they may be literate, strictly speaking, but will they be able to coherently write anything that requires an interconnected chain of thought that lead leads to a logical conclusion... oh, like say a term paper.

All too true, Screature. My grad students, all teachers here in NL, are telling me of students as young as grade four unable to write a paragraph without the use of Netlingo. As for a coherent thought ............... well, that's another matter.

chas_m
Aug 19th, 2009, 01:55 PM
As much as it pains me to say it, written communication has turned out to be a fad. :)

The human race didn't really have it for thousands of years, then we had it for a couple thousand or so, and now it's going away ... back towards a visual/audible preference ...

screature
Aug 19th, 2009, 02:23 PM
As much as it pains me to say it, written communication has turned out to be a fad. :)

The human race didn't really have it for thousands of years, then we had it for a couple thousand or so, and now it's going away ... back towards a visual/audible preference ...

You are just being provocative... and I am not going to bite... :D

Elric
Aug 19th, 2009, 02:39 PM
That video is the ****! Purely awesome!

SINC
Aug 19th, 2009, 03:04 PM
I too am concerned that netlingo will be the downfall of a whole generation. I see far too much of it used in inappropriate situations.

BigDL
Aug 19th, 2009, 03:04 PM
Itís all altruismís fault.

If only Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and everyone else just charged us an arm and a leg for the first web browsers and still made us pay through the teeth for them. We all would certainly know what a web browser is and why it is the best because the advertising and the salesperson told us.

Easy come easy go.

They should make a movie about such a thing. ;)

Rps
Aug 19th, 2009, 03:17 PM
Screature, I'm not so sure Chas is wrong on the concept of the written word dwindling. Those of you in the newspaper business know that there are fewer and fewer papers today ... why? We think it is the low ad revenue, but maybe it's fewer people actually reading. Go to a library today and, at least where I live, the largest section is where the DVD / CD are held. We all have made fun of CNN and especially FOX news, but guess what ... we watch them ... along with millions of other people. Those with an iPhone, got a news app on it? The first step in doing away with the written portion of a language is to stop writing yourself. Let someone else do it for you. Unless you are in business, how many of you actually write a letter on a frequent basis ... I'm not talking about keyboarding, I mean pen and paper and longer than a greeting card expression of whatever.

That is where it starts ... if you have younger children, how many of their assignments are on the computer?

From there it is only a generation or two away from totally verbal communication. I think Chas is right.

screature
Aug 19th, 2009, 03:23 PM
From there it is only a generation or two away from totally verbal communication. I think Chas is right.

Still not biting.... :D

SINC
Aug 19th, 2009, 03:52 PM
The first step in doing away with the written portion of a language is to stop writing yourself. Let someone else do it for you. Unless you are in business, how many of you actually write a letter on a frequent basis ... I'm not talking about keyboarding, I mean pen and paper and longer than a greeting card expression of whatever.

That is where it starts ... if you have younger children, how many of their assignments are on the computer?

From there it is only a generation or two away from totally verbal communication. I think Chas is right.

Just a couple of weeks ago I sat down with pen and paper and wrote a letter of condolence to the widow of one of my best friends. Neither he nor she used a computer and any communication he ever gave to me for coordinating events he chaired over his lifetime was in his or her written hand. I wanted her to know how much he had meant to me over those years and she called to thank me for writing it.

I would have been uncomfortable doing anything less, but I bet I am among the very few left who bother to do such things. (The letter incidentally was three pages in length.)

chas_m
Aug 19th, 2009, 07:41 PM
I would have been uncomfortable doing anything less, but I bet I am among the very few left who bother to do such things. (The letter incidentally was three pages in length.)

Great story.

You probably would have enjoyed one of my various adventures -- I got to handle, scan and read hundreds of actual Civil War soldier letters for a book our company was typesetting. Most were written on foolscrap paper, carried on into the margins and such because the paper was so scarce.

The penmanship was absolutely BEAUTIFUL, but the spelling and grammar were APPALLING, even by the standards of 150 years ago. The sentiments were mostly pretty basic descriptions of what they had done, but a few of them were really moving.

Sadly, the book was created and published for a collection of Confederate-descended families and no public copies were made available, or I'd point you to a link. Fascinating stuff though.