The wrong side of the chasm

chasm Daniel Burka
Photo courtesy of Daniel Burka

I’m looking forward to a visit with my nephew. He graduates from high school in two weeks and will be headed to Michigan Tech in the fall. I’ll help him set up and customize a blog to which he can upload the videos for which he’s becoming well known. It’s delightful to imagine where he might take his new project. He’ll catch on quickly, and soon I’ll be hounding him for advice about adding features to my blog.

The ease with which the under-forty crowd can discuss all things Web-related contrasts forlornly with the arguments that ensue when I reveal to my peers any enthusiasm for new technology and ways of doing business. It’s not just that people closer to my age are sometimes unwilling to face the economic facts; it often seems they’re completely oblivious to the facts. “How can that be?” I keep asking myself. These are intelligent individuals.

It feels as though I lost my old friends when I crossed the digital divide. It didn’t happen suddenly. The gap widened, not imperceptibly but gradually, over the past decade. Now, it’s a chasm I can’t seem to get back across.

In my younger days, it was sensible to perfect a skill in the expectation that you could profit from expertise. Today, it’s impossible to predict how long a particular aptitude will be of service to anyone.

A dazzling amount of information (and entertainment) is readily available to any person with access to the Internet and the willingness to search for it. To turn away from the gift out of frustration, apathy, fear, or pride is to become voluntarily impoverished. Learning how to learn is the only knowledge destined to retain value. My professors taught me so…

…and then they seemed to forget.

2 Replies to “The wrong side of the chasm”

  1. This so beautifully well said. You capture something so true, if so disheartening.

    I’m right at a nexus where my cyber-love is irritating to half and quirky, but understandable, to the other. Even that makes me wish I could have been with the true digital natives. To have it be that ALL my peers find it JUST-TOO-MUCH would be like a knife in the side.

    I think that you can take some comfort that standing separate from your crowd on this shows strength and wisdom. The strength is obvious, but I claim it shows wisdom because the older people get the more they seem to be unable to move out of the known, the comfortable, the everybody-says-so. I’m not talking about politics– I see just as time-warped greybeards every time I visit the People’s Republic of Berkeley these days– but about simply being able to be excited at the new, innovative, creative, or challenging.

    It’s sad, no doubt, but you are fighting for the cause of human reason and creativity.

  2. Is there a place where people are inquisitive enough to require Internet technology and yet bohemian enough to teach their children poetry? I first read Antonio Machado in a café at a bend in the road somewhere in Marin County. A student in a grade school class had selected the poet’s words about golden bees “making white combs and sweet honey” to print on a quote quilt constructed of paper that decorated the wall. Now, I suppose the child is a teenager decorating MySpace.

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