The democratization of knowledge

…or why kids don’t make me feel stupid

We — gen-X/Y — grew up in a fascinating, and at least for me, fortuitous time: never before has there been such a dramatic societal change in so short a period, and but for the internet I’m really not sure what I’d be doing.

Like nearly all generations that came before them, the newer generations have it better…but (as with job displacement) it’s different this time. Not only is there just infinitely more information and understanding today than ever in the past — and empathy as a result of both — but the ability with which we can access the information is unprecedented. In most (1st-world) cases, access effectively is a zero-friction, zero-cost endeavor.

If the ultimate aims of an advanced civilization are access, opportunity, and professional choice, then my and later generations absolutely lucked out (well, until the machines do everything).

We grew up hearing all the time how stupid we made our parents and teachers feel because we were so good with computers, the internet, etc. I’m 36 now and have never felt that way with regard to those younger than me. No, I don’t have kids, and I’m sure if and when I do I’ll be made to feel stupid every single day, but I’m also fairly certain those moments won’t have much to do with technology (but rather my ineptitude with regard to nearly everything else).

Maybe I’m a little over-confident…or maybe my and later generations have been given the cognitive and behavioral tools to take on anything tech’ish? To be clear, I’m not saying we’re all this way; my younger brother is about as big a luddite as you can possibly be in this day and age, and I quite literally don’t know how he functions in society. But, he’s a big outlier, and 34, so…

I’m of course not saying that future tech won’t wow me — it most certainly better — just that it won’t scare me (minus AI, obviously ;). For the majority of us the internet is our medium (sorry). Our spacetime. It’s scaffolding that our reality ceases to exist without. That this is a given I think helps us navigate and absorb all of the new technologies that are exploding around us at ever faster rates. And “absorb” doesn’t need to mean fully understanding, but rather the notion that we know we can understand if we invest enough time and energy. Nothing seems unknowable. Nothing seems scary.

We know there likely are unlimited answers to any questions we might have, and that it’s up to us to find (read: search for) and select the best ones…the correct ones…and ignore the bullshit. At this point we do this almost without thinking, the practice nearly unconscious.


Regarding not feeling stupid, this Buzzfeed piece about how young teens use Snapchat is utter madness. Seriously, it’s hard to read without getting upset. These kids are insane. Go the fuck outside and build a fort or something. At the very least stay inside and create something. There are unlimited things for teens to do other than swap a hundred pictures of themselves with friends who don’t even look at them. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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