Πέμπτη, 25 Αυγούστου 2016

Blog no.18: Back to the future

Dear time-travellers,

You know how back in your day you probably thought of the 21st century as the century that would make everything we ever knew until then obsolete? (Assuming you're from the past, if not what the hell are you doing here? You know how things will work out.) We would have flying cars, we would have colonized a few other planets, achieved interstellar travel and teleportation or even travel back and forth through time. People were so fast to dream big, so excited to fantasize about a futuristic era with floating cities and underwater ones and since we haven't been able to do so (yet!) they don't appreciate what we have achieved in these few decades, or they heavily critisize it as a step in the wrong direction. What have we achieved so far you ask? Well, person living in an internet-less era, you'll have to sit down for this one.
  In just a few decades we have not only created a world wide web that connects everything and everyone wherever they are (except my stupid apartment elevator, of all places), we are now able to control it in the palm of our hands. We have these little devices that can give us any piece of information we like in very minimal time, and we're very much addicted to them as anyone would be if they had the chance. We live in the age of information, where everything is possible and you can learn about whatever your heart pleases in a heartbeat. And what we use it for you say? Well, we mostly argue about stuff and call each other names, as is tradition in human nature but we have started getting better at it for sure. We are so preoccupied to our future not living up to impossible standards, we didn't realize we are actually living in it, so spoiled by being able to control everything through a little piece of technology which a few years back would be a glorified walkman at best that we don't understand how to harness its true power through something we've always been great at: learning. Talking to a friend living hundreds of miles away without paying incredible amounts of money or relying on the post office to actually locate your friend in Middleofnowheresville, has become a novelty, really. Truth is, I can't really blame anyone on how they use the internet, since it's not something people consider a tool, but rather a convenience. That's not gonna be the case for long though, and here's why. 
  In my mind there are three generations of people living currently on this planet. There's the older generation that was born before the internet was even concieved as an idea, much like you dear visitor from the past. You lived in a post-WW2 era, when the dust was settled for the most part, you lived a happy albeit boring childhood, your toys consisted of plastic soldiers, footballs and bicycles and your games were always outdoors. You didn't have to worry much about learning stuff since the job market was at its peak when you graduated, so you were able to do just fine with a college degree and a knick for settlement. Most of your knowledge stems from encyclopedias, books, newspapers and occasionally stories you were told by your parents or grandparents. During the explosion of the internet you were already in your 30's or 40's, you didn't need anything else and were just fascinated to hear about the advancements, but since you didn't need to use it, you didn't bother to. Now it has taken over the world and you're so technologically incompetent that you don't really understand how to use it properly, so you rely on the second or third generation to help you with that. You are slowly learning though, and now you're at a point where you can use it by yourself, just not at its true potential. Which brings us to the second generation, the generation that I will name "the transition generation".
  Gotta say I'm biased, being part of this "transition generation" but here's how I see it: We lived in the era where the internet was starting to become the powerhouse it is now. World was starting to get unstable after 9/11 but it was still mostly safe. We didn't have super fast lines and we had to hear a symphony of alien music to be able to go online but we actually could do so in our houses and in our disposal. We used it to, of course, download music, movies and, other, well, "stuff", and we discovered so much things we wouldn't be able to do so otherwise. We stretched our imagination to impossible lenghts since we knew the potential of this and we were told by our parents (the older generation) to "stop playing video games and just go outside". Truth is we did both equally, and we couldn't be happier about having a choice between those two things. We learned about technology first hand, we adapted to it and actually noticed the massive difference of the 00's to the 10's, we experienced the transition of the novelty of the internet to the necessity that it is today. We did our fair share of stupid shit using it, we've all caught all sorts of viruses and accidentally downloaded porn instead "Shrek 2" (was that just me?) We appreciate the tools we have right now, because we lived without them, we lived with them and that way we learned how to use them wisely. 
  Now for convenience I will just name the third generation "the information generation" since they were born in the "information era". Mostly consisting of people born after 2000, these people are just now becoming adults, living in a very unstable environment, with news of bombings, fires, killings and natural distasters every other day. Not to say that these things didn't happen before, but being able to know about them surely makes things look a lot worse than they used to. They were kids when my generation first started getting acquainted to the internet but in their teens they already had smartphones, when all the previous generation had was regular phones, and the one before them had two cans and a string. They've always been able to find whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, they had so much stuff going on at the same time, and they were so overwhelmed by the amount of things they could do at such a young age, that they started to neglect it. This is in my opinion the most wrongly accused generation, since they're the ones who have to work the hardest to achieve what the previous ones were simply given for free. Having facebook in their teens meant their embarassments were engraved online forever, which thankfully wasn't the case in my generation. Now, learning from their past mistakes they are actually using the internet how it's meant to be used: with caution. They are fast learners and will probably the most hard-working generation if they wanna dig themselves out of the mess that the first generation caused for the next ones. 
  Best way I can describe all three generations is the swimming analogy. The first generation didn't really have to learn how to swim since they weren't needed to, but as it became a necessity to learn how to swim they had to do so at a very difficult age. The second generation lived in the period where people started taking their kids to swim, and gave them the opportunity to adjust from not being able to swimg to being highly competent swimmers in their young years. The youngest generation was thrown into a pool with no lifejacket, and nobody to look after them except the occasional "don't go in too deep" from their parents. 
  As the time passes though, we have seen that all three generations have done what humans always did best: adjust. We are now just learning how to use this powerful tool that has been given to us and I gotta say, we're getting pretty good at it. We might not have colonized the moon, we haven't found the Atlantis yet and we still haven't been able to perfect our social skills but what we created, this interconnected universe we now have is just a marvel to look at. Now, all we need to do is stop blaming each other for the fuckups that brought us to this mess, and just work towards solving the problems we have instead of creating new ones. Will be easy enough, right? If anyone from the future is reading this, just make my laptop screen blink once so I know we start doing that....................................................................................................................................................Shit. Beer, anyone? 

Stelios Zesiades

To Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who made all this possible