Saturday, 27 November 2021
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik The Generation Game

Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it

Written by  Mark Thomas Oct 31, 2021

We were supposed to be the generation that relaxed on the beach while computers charged around doing all the hard work. I can vividly recall the shows on TV when I was younger confidently stating that humans will work much less as computers become more advanced. Did I miss something? What went wrong?

Every generation thinks it’s special, the “lucky generation” to live through a certain period. Mine is marked by technology in all its forms. I was born before mobile phones, computers and the WWW were even invented, yes, thank you I know I’m old. And my generation believes that we are the “chosen ones” as we’ve seen the rise of the digital age.

And I am not denying it has been fascinating and confusing in equal measures, although I don’t feel that special.

Just flick back through the pages of history and you’ll find “special generations” on every other page. Humans have been on a learning curve for the last 100,000 years, as our journey began in Africa. Yes, we’re all Africans at heart.

Can you imagine what a game changer the invention of the wheel was! They say the wheel is the greatest invention because it’s purely man-made. There is no wheel in nature to draw inspiration from. Or what about the printing press (thank you Mr. Gutenberg), the computer of the 15th century. This was the real beginning of social mobility, before this people didn’t have access to any reading material. You could say that in 1440 man moved into the world of the written word and at the same time the era of mass communication. This was the first steps into social media, although I doubt Gutenberg had an emoji on his printing press.

Or the industrial revolution in the 18th century that changed the way that we travelled, produced goods and worked, how clever that generation must have thought they were. But every generation has a by-product and this one has gave us the birth of global warming and carbon-filled skies. It’s only just over 500 years ago that a whole new continent was discovered by Europeans. Imagine the shock when news spread that across the ocean there was new lands, the Americas. Or 200 years later when Australia was discovered.

And yes, if you’ve been following the printing press was invented before Columbus discovered the US. I say discovered a little tongue in cheek, as it was always there and was home to hundreds of thousands of people already.

Or the generations at the very end of the 19th century that not only saw the birth of the motor car but also electricity (thank you Mr. Tesla). Every generation is special, not just the one we’re part of.

If I had a choice I quite like the look of the Renaissance period, an era that shaped the modern world. In brief, Martin Behaim created the globe. Magellan circled the globe. Columbus landed on the Americas. Shakespeare wrote. Michelangelo painted. Leonardo da Vinci did everything. Bartolomeu Diaz explored. Feudalism fell. Capitalism rose. Copernicus redefined the solar system. Galileo explored space. Isaac Newton discovered gravity. Now that seems like a cool period to be alive.

Science, art, philosophy, society, language, government, religion, they all changed forever. And my generation is getting excited about sending SMS’s or banking online?!

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this isn’t a special time, or rather it’s just as special as the previous countless generations. As the great George Orwell once wrote “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” And history, and indeed future generations, will judge us by the decisions we make today. Our grandchildren will either blame us or praise us for being bold and thinking about them.

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