It’s been while since I posted but this really caught my eye
It’s something of a conundrum to those of us above a certain age: the sheer accessibility of stuff. Music, books, pictures, information. It worries us because it would seem the future is a world in which no-one has the time to live in the moment, to appreciate the now, to savour art in slow motion. Remember listening to an album all the way through or reading just one book at a time from beginning to end? When going to a library or real shop was the only way to get at new literature? Has art now become merely disposable, evanescent? Is there a value to wandering lonely as a cloud, to pondering to application? Or are those that think so just out of touch?
I’m a scientist, so when it comes to progress, I’m a believer. That is, we can’t stop learning, knowing, aspiring, striving. So the information superhighway (remember that phrase) is what children will grow up knowing, and what a fantastic opportunity to be that connected to the wealth of human knowledge? To find people across the world and be able to communicate with them, share their lives, their experiences? If we want a tolerant, fair society, we first need to understand each other. There are tremendous advantages to this connectivity. Ok, but perhaps we’re straying a little here from the original thought: kids skimming through music tracks on their phone or opening pages on their Kindle so fast they never listen to a whole song or read a whole book again. Will books have to be ever-shorter, songs ever-briefer to keep apace with our ever-diminishing attention span? Maybe.
One thing is for sure, people’s brains will simply be wired differently in the future. The next generation will grow up with this world, and will know no other. Their appreciation of art in all it’s forms will have a different basis. What might frustrate the current generation will have a completely different impact on the next one coming through. Because their neural networks will have developed in tune to this new environment. Don’t you think a Victorian’s head would spin at the sheer pace and complexity of our lives now? They’d go insane in a week. We’re having to adapt (and fast) to the technological age. So perhaps the pain, the concern, and frustration we might be experiencing now is just the transition from one culture to the next? That’s one side of the coin.
The other is that we will become an increasingly dissatisfied and bored race of individuals, who’s appetite for knowledge and art can never be sated. It took me 30/40 years of life before I discovered some authors and musicians I came to treasure amongst my favourites, and continuing to discover new things is a joy I’d want to last a lifetime. But what if you’ve already interacted in some superficial way with so many artists, authors, musicians by the time you’re twenty that all you live for is the next new ‘thing’, which can never be superior to the vast accumulation of art that has gone before? Those neural networks, hungry for knowledge, will need to be fed.
I think that is a real problem, But I also have faith that lifestyles and habits will start to circle back. I can see it happening now: the re-emergence of vinyl, the growing sales of real books vs digital. and not just amongst the old farts. Kids want those same tactile, slow burning experiences too. And I think they’ll want to switch the world off now and again to savour the moment. We just have to ensure that it’s possible to do so by creating real mechanisms, places and time for them to escape. Like much in life, I do think we’ll find the medium. This info overload just has to run its course a while. But, hey, aren’t we lucky we’re here to experience it!