Opinion
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

The digital age: Are we ready for a calamity?

The digital age gave us a new etarian label, the Millennials. Are these IT-savvy whiz-kids prepared for the real world and the changes the New Age will bring?

...and is the real world prepared for these IT-savvy whiz-kids, who at the push of a button can hail a cab, calculate an exchange operation in six currencies, tell you what the chef's special is at the local Italian, in Italian, and order the shopping to be delivered tomorrow between nine and eleven a.m.?

Take away the smart phone and what happens?

Take away the tablet or the smart phone and the same whiz-kid will be relegated to a silenced, disinterested onlooker, sitting on the sidelines of life like a spare stick at a Kung-fu wedding party, incapable of shouting "Taxi!" because at best what you get out of "him" is a grunt, what you get out of "her" is a shrug and the response "whatever"; (s)he will be unable to solve an exercise in basic arithmetic, will tell you one hundred bread rolls at 10 cents each cost 120 dollars, no sorry, 12, no, no....300; finally, if the chef's special is sold out, our whiz-kid will sit staring vapidly at the table cloth, dazed, wondering what to do.

This horrific generalization (apologies to the exceptions) describes the generation brought up on high adrenaline rushes from video games, from cartoons, even the TV news with blasts from e-trumpets and drum rolls just as BREAKING NEWS flashes across the screen and EMERGENCY crawls across the bottom of the screen on the ticker. This is the generation which multi-tasks in watching TV, playing with a Playstation, chatting to friends (on the keyboard of course), with a laptop and a tablet balanced on each knee, all functioning at the same time.

Is the classroom adapted to the Millennials?

So how the Hell can the Millennial sit still for five minutes in a classroom and pay attention to a teacher telling her/him what is anyway readily available on a smart phone or ipad? Are school curricula adapted to the frantic pace of change in society, in the work market, in the appearance of new trends, which create chasms between those who need to update themselves constantly and others just two technological years behind?

Are Universities keeping up with the fact that many of the courses they are lecturing today will be obsolete in just a few years' time?

As far as job markets are concerned, particularly in the North-Western hemisphere, with the tremendous and growing challenges posed by automation, robotization, digitalization, outsourcing and downsizing, how can they possibly cater for the needs of those freshly arrived on the doorstep, without experience?

So how can any social welfare system, using the current funding models, provide public services for users who are living longer and longer, with fewer paying in to the kitty and more receiving unemployment benefit (or worse, not even qualifying for it)? Until when will the sovereign debt be able to service the costs of providing services, especially in times of slowing or stagnated growth or recession?

Serious challenges demand solutions

Looking back over all of these questions, we are all faced by serious challenges at a time when our youth (and future) is already divided into the digital haves and have-nots and those left behind face a bleak future, especially since education and training have become a financial exercise rather than a public service.

Our Universities are churning out graduates for a shrinking work market and continue to be focused on Arts and Sciences, a process which begins way back in secondary education, instead of the entire system honing multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary, cognitive skills.

Then at the other end of the line, how long will it be before today's graduate or skilled or experienced worker is obsolete? For how long will we be able to pay pensions, when people retire at 66 (if they are still working and are not receiving some kind of benefit) and live for 20 years or (increasingly) longer?

When the Welfare State created the pension age of 65, life expectanbcy for a male was 69, the etarian pyramid had a broader base and a pointed peak at the top, and people had not invented the myriad of costly technologies available today, such as CAT-Scans, DNA testing, proton beam therapy and so on.

Do the Millennials have what it takes?

There is a desperate need for people to come together and think together, speak together and find global solutions. But how can a generation (the Millennials), brought up with everything gifted to them on a console or screen, be expected to perform cognitive and communication chains of exercise when they have not been taught to think for themselves, create knowledge rather than access it and when communication is becoming monosyllabic?

When the calamity comes, it will hit hard, come fast, faster than we could imagine given the current kinetic rate of change and we will need to produce answers, create new responses, not access existing ones on a screen.

Photo: By Paul Holloway from Birmingham, United Kingdom - Nearly packed at the PyramidUploaded by Fæ, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24940491

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

Pravda.Ru 

Twitter: @TimothyBHinchey

timothy.hinchey@gmail.com

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Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey works in the area of teaching, consultancy, coaching, translation, revision of texts, copy-writing and journalism. Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru since 2002, and now Co-Editor of the English version, he contributes regularly to several other publications in Portuguese and English. He has worked in the printed and online media, in daily, weekly, monthly and yearly magazines and newspapers. A firm believer in multilateralism as a political approach and multiculturalism as a means to bring people and peoples together, he is Official Media Partner of UN Women, fighting for gender equality and Media Partner with Humane Society International, promoting animal rights. His hobbies include sports, in which he takes a keen interest, traveling, networking to protect the rights of LGBTQI communities and victims of gender violence, and cataloging disappearing languages, cultures and traditions around the world. A keen cook, he enjoys trying out different cuisines and regards cooking and sharing as a means to understand cultures and bring people together