Tech and the new generation gap

The “fewer, nicer” credo — elegant simplicity, few assets — is partly generational.  People born before 1960 simply do not get it.  Like past generation gaps, this is driven by changes in tech.

1960s:  the Generation Gap was essentially “before pills” and “after pills.”  After World War II, changes in technology rendered venereal diseases curable, and pregnancy avoidable.  People who reached puberty after about 1960 then simply acted on human instinct, unrestrained by a millennia-old social rule, “don’t commit adultery,” that suddenly carried no real consequences.  Older people, acting on the old social rules out of habit rather than rationale, were shocked.

2017:  here we go again.  The mobile internet has turned old assumptions upside down.  For any type of knowledge work, you can now live and work anywhere you can find high-speed internet.  So-called “millennials” are simply responding to this new landscape of capabilities and constraints.

Houses and cars look like boat anchors, limiting flexibility and mobility.  Luxury goods in particular are unmasked:  while aesthetics still have value, luxuries are in effect much more expensive than before, because they reduce mobility.  Fixed offices have less utility when you can work and collaborate from anywhere.  Landlines, checkbooks, bank branches, cable TV — there is a very long list of things that suddenly don’t make sense in the modern technological landscape.

And people born before about 1960, or even 1965, simply do not get it.  Since most politicians are on the wrong side of that divide, they are unable to forge policy that makes sense in today’s conditions.


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