I’m a visual learner. I like to know how things work so that, as is often the case, I have an outside chance of fixing them if they become unresponsive (read: broken).
To me, research is a form of visual learning, since it allows me to see how certain things interact with other things.
I had one of those research moments the other day when I came across a survey by the Pew Internet Research Center entitled “The Future of the Internet.” The survey targeted “technology stakeholders and critics” and offers a fascinating view of what these stakeholders feel will be the effect of the new technologies on the current younger generation in the year 2020.
Those surveyed were asked which of these two statements they agreed with:
- “In 2020 the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are “wired” differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields helpful results. They do not suffer notable cognitive shortcomings as they multitask and cycle quickly through personal- and work-related tasks. Rather, they are learning more and they are more adept at finding answers to deep questions, in part because they can search effectively…”
- “In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are “wired” differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields baleful results. They do not retain information; they spend most of their energy sharing short social messages, being entertained, and being distracted away from deep engagement with people and knowledge. They lack deep-thinking capabilities; they lack face-to-face social skills…”
Over half (55%) agreed with the former; 42% agreed with the latter.
I agree with many of the points expressed by both camps. I think that today’s younger people access and process information in a different manner than previous generations, and the next generation will do so as well. Whether or not they’re “wired” differently, I don’t think so.
However, I also feel that with this ease of getting information and with the myriad devices providing access, a Millennial’s ability to focus (a word often repeated throughout the report) and therefore, their ability to think critically, will be lessened.
What I didn’t see referenced often (if at all) was human nature. Human nature has not changed in the thousands of years man has been on Earth. We adapt well to changing environments. We’ll continue to adapt. What won’t change is that there will be those who excel and those who won’t. That’s going to be the same no matter what the time or technology is. Call it a “digital divide” or a “technological imbalance,” it’s the same thing. Darwin referred to it as “survival of the fittest.” There’s really no way to “fix” it, because each of us processes information in a different way.
In 2020, I bet we’ll still be having this conversation.
EVP, Director of Connection Planning