The young are impetuous, inexperienced, headstrong and determined. As we get older, we are wiser, more considered, more experienced and battle scared, more sensible.
Or maybe not…
There’s an inherent assumption in society that as we get older, we have done more learning and generally know better. It’s natural enough; historically we would learn from parents, teachers, elders, authority figures who had spent years developing skills, knowledge and approaches to problems. The structure of many societies is built upon this, with the more elderly protected and venerated, but there are differences creeping in.
New technology has usually been the preserve of the young, and the pace of change makes this ever more true. Indeed, there is a very real danger of technology orphaning the older generations, not through complexity of operation, but through complexity of procurement; i certainly struggle to explain or understand the multitude of ways that you can get your television, internet and phone, before i even consider dealing with the exponentially growing tangle of cables, sockets and accounts.
It’s not the operation of the technology that carries the risk (although this does exist), it’s about the different ways that we interact with it, which has an age related slant. Social networking is new to many of us, but it’s second nature to the average teenager. They interact with technology differently than the rest of us. Identity is more fluid, relationships more transient, navigation more flexible. The dynamic ability to jump from real to virtual, from one identity to another, is more apparent.
In terms of learning, we are more likely to turn to Google than Grandad. The native assumption that the elderly are the repository of knowledge has crumbled. The storytelling culture is in danger of dying, replaced by community driven content and instant access from the smartphone.
Is this a bad thing? Not in some ways, but certainly in others. Knowledge is the new coal. Access to a seam makes you powerful. The ability to access, assess, validate and utilise knowledge is a powerful skill. Much of this is tied up with technology; from searching to statistics, Word to Excel, Forums to Facebook, there’s a whole business of knowledge management out there. But wisdom is more than just knowledge. It’s the application of knowledge, the relationships that underpin it, the ability to consider the material, the emotional and to find a wise path through the middle. Not too impulsive, not too rational, not too fast, not too slow. Considered, experienced, wise.
You don’t have to be old to be wise of course, but there may be a correlation.
All of this came to me because someone was asking me for advice yesterday; not because i was more knowledgeable, but because i am older. I do the same. Sure, i can google things, i can look online, if i’m desperate, i can even use the infernal Bing, but when push comes to shove, sometimes it’s good to just ask someone who’s been there before, who has experience, who is just a bit older.