The one where I fear for the natives

I love books, always have done (as long as I can remember) and hopefully always will do. What’s more publishers and bookcase makers should love me as I like to buy my own and generally like to keep them. That said in the past few weeks I have had a revelation. The fact that I have too many isn’t the revelation, the revelation was actually that I have 3 types of books:

  1. Books I have read and will never read again
  2. Books I have read and would consider reading again
  3. Books I have kept because they contain information I wanted access to

With a new objective to reduce the number of books I have in my home 1 and 2 are easy – give category 1 to a charity shop and find more efficient ways to store category 2. In reviewing the entries in category 3 I had a sub-revelation that actually most of these are now redundant as the information they contain is out to date versus that available online. Which got me to thinking….

When I was kid calculators were becoming cheap and widely available, so we all nagged our Mums into getting us one and a generation of people were amused by typing 55378008 into a small machine. In thinking back I remember arguments about why would you need to learn mental arithmetic when you could work it out on a calculator but now with hindsight it’s abundantly clear that a) mental arithmetic is far more valuable than just “doing Maths” and that b) my Dad is better than most card games than me due to his superior mental arithmetic.

Likewise when I was a kid if you wanted to access knowledge you needed either something or someone who gave you access whether that be parents (or other such grownups), a friend with the Encyclopaedia Britannica or for that tough to reach stuff a trip to the local reference library. Therefore, when you got some knowledge you tried (or at least I did) to retain it, whether that be in your head or in a book for future use.

In reflecting on my revelations with books the thoughts that I spiralled into involved the digital natives (or generation Z whichever you prefer) and their evaluation of and access to information and from that knowledge. Given my generation’s attitudes to mental arithmetic given access to calculators, will the natives given access to Google/wiki etc dismiss the need to learn and retain knowledge relying on the fact they have easy access to it?

This leaves me with 2 very pressing concerns:

  1. What happens when there’s no signal?
  2. How will they ever know the satisfaction of winning a pub quiz without cheating?


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3 responses to “The one where I fear for the natives

  1. Wendy Jacob

    I find this with satnav. When I used to have to memorise directions or look at a map, I would only have to drive somewhere once for it to be embedded in my mind. Since I got satnav several years ago my “driving memory” has all but vanished! Last weekend I drove to my parents’ house from work. I must have done that journey ten times now, but I’m still not comfortable doing it without satnav.

    Worrying times indeed…

  2. I used to know the phone number of everyone I needed to ring. There were hundreds. I now can only recall mine, my wife’s and my fathers. I couldn’t even tell you what my daughters number is come to think of it.

    I struggle with the digital age. On the one hand i rejoice and marvel at the difference it has made. On the other, it worries me greatly. I used to have photo’s in boxes, documents in print form etc etc. Now, all the recent stuff from the last 10 years is in the ‘cloud’! And as we move more and more towards a cashless society, one day it might be entirely possible to be erased, to become a nothing, if the cloud disappears.

    Imagine trying to prove your identity or creditworthyness if all that electronic evidence disappeared and you had nothing ‘real’ or tangible.

    I have only one solace – when it all goes down, i will gain comfort in the fact that I am old. And as a result of being old, I will have some form of recall, some mental maths capability, some sense of how to start a fire etc etc when all around me will be armies of gen y’s, all immobile and staring into space, completely unable to do anything due to their dependence on digital narcotics….

  3. The answer to concern number two is concern number one.

    And as long as Grandad Jones (that’s Gareth not you Rob) knows how to start a fire, well it’s all round to his place eh? 🙂

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