Kids These Days

Today is my oldest’s birthday. I’m now the father of a teenager. While I bolt down the furniture and batten down the hatches in preparation for all I’m told that comes with parenting a teenager, I thought it might be interesting to take some time to reflect on it means to that age in this age.

-If you look at science fiction movies prior to 2005 or so, the one thing you don’t see is a smart phone. It’s the most obvious thing that futuristic predictions got wrong. A touch screen and the types of resolution that make a smartphone possible just weren’t things people could wrap their heads around until they saw it.

In contrast, my son has never lived in a world without one. He has his own. I’m not sure what living until my 30s without a smartphone did to how I think and behave relative to someone who has had the knowledge of the world in their hands their whole life. It’s more immediate and available than the internet alone. And we don’t know what it means to that generation. We’ll learn.

-TV isn’t a thing. 13 year olds watch Youtube on TV instead of TV. The environment they are entertained by has people who simply start a channel and get famous beaming into their living room. When I was 13, it was such a remote possibility that I would be on TV that I never thought about it. It was a bridge too far and I didn’t really care to participate in things that made people famous. Today’s 13 year old lives in a world where they have clear examples of people doing just that on a wide variety of things that interest them. The expansion of the idea that it’s not “crazy” to simply go be someone that’s known and recognized is one that probably matters over the course of time. Though I’m not sure how.

-The gap between how interesting the things a 13 year old can do by himself, without leaving the house and what is available outside in the world within near reach and in the company of others has never been larger. It is no longer realistic to say, go outside and do something instead of just staying here and doing the same old stuff. Because the opportunities to do things in the world of atoms is relatively narrow compared to what is available in the world of bits. Aside from physical exercise, there is a monopoly on high level stimulation that drives creative thinking, problem solving and stimulation on screens. Again, that impact probably matters.

If we think of what it must have been like to live through the late industrial revolution and the shift away from agriculture, we might get an idea. It wasn’t the generation that saw it through that was impacted as much as it was the ones that came when the change was in place and never lived a world where it was viewed as more useful to farm than to work in industry.  That had impacts on nearly every aspect of life. It’s possible this shift is as dramatic.

-It’s also possible that my son will go from 11 to 19 with Donald Trump as president of the United States. The first election he can vote in may be after 8 years of Trump. I’m not sure what that does to a generation of future civic burdens.

-Medical coverage as is won’t survive until he needs it. Neither will social security.

-By the time he’s 25, 30-50% of the jobs that existed when he was born will have been eliminated or marginalized by automation. We have no idea what other human jobs will replace them.

I’m not sure the biggest challenge I’m going to be up against is sighs, eye rolls and forced disinterest. But what the hell do I know. It’s my first day…


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