Generation Distinction Through Technology

Saturday, August 12 2006

While playing with Google Earth last night it occurred to me that the app, or more importantly, what it allows a person to do, is as significant a change for my generation as changes like the introduction and adoption of automobiles were for my great grandparents, or landing on the moon was for my grandparents.

I’m counting it as the first new technology that is significant enough to produce a distinct generation gap between me and my children. I can’t count the Internet as one of those technologies – for the most part both my children and I will have grown up with some kind of network connection and I certainly can’t count the personal computer. No other technology comes to mind that has such vast potential, and yet has only been available to the mainstream for a couple of years. Last night I zoomed in on North Korea and saw nuclear missile sites. I saw the crater where the World Trade Centers once stood. I looked at villages wiped out by genocide in Darfur. I couldn’t do that before my kids were born, but they’ll be able to do it for the rest of their lives.

I wonder if my stupefaction with Google Earth is the same sort of feeling my great grandparents had when a perfectly good horse drawn carriage went putting down the street without the horse. Were they unable, as I am, to explain why it’d change everything?

Will technologies like Google Earth make the world small enough that our children will understand how their behaviors will make an impact on the lives of people living just a mouse drag around the globe away?