In talking to my friend Matthias recently while staying with him in Luxembourg, I was thinking about the scale of change we are going through. He was describing the approach his daughters take to learning. His eldest daughter is only 11 and her sister 9 yet already they take learning into their own hands, practicing new languages using tutorials on the internet. In a similar way, if my own children (some 4 and 9 years older) want to find out about something new they look it up on the internet, as most of us do. Much of the learning for the younger generation is done through peers using social media. Matthias was also telling me about a series of wonderful tutorials that are freely available from universities in the USA that his eldest daughter was going to look at. Teachers now suggest that they are more like facilitators helping kids to understand where to access knowledge rather than the providers of it. If their facts or presentations are wrong then the kids will look it up on the internet and correct them. I wonder if in the future, education will shift to be more self-directed rather than controlled by an educational establishment. In fact, I think it is already happening, it’s just that the formal systems have not caught up with it yet.
My own generation has lived through the introduction of these profound changes, perhaps this is the continuing impact of the Pluto-Uranus opposite Saturn generation of the sixties which has taken social revolution to a whole new scale. I remember being at school when the very first computers came out and my family buying a sinclair programmable calculator which took an age to do relatively simple sums. Yet within years Casio were making sophisticated calculators which we were using in Maths lessons. When I entered the world of work, computers had still not really arrived and electric typewriters and word processors were the norm. The phenomenon of email began to take hold over my early years of work and I remember the first brick sized mobile phones. Now companies are virtual, employees often work from home or in multiple locations etc.
I suspect Historians might look back in the future and see this period as one which involved a scale of change for humanity like potentially no other period before it. There may be others, for instance when we finally set up colonies off the Earth, but, with the first man in space and on the moon having happened in the last fifty years perhaps the seeds of this have already been sown. I think there are many areas which will change. Education appears to be one which is already changing, as is social interaction and the way we do business, shop, watch video, access music. In fact everywhere we look there is quite seismic change taking place. Looking back on my own life, I find it hard to imagine what it was like before mobile phones, the internet et al. I know I lived through such times, but even in such a relatively short period, it is difficult to remember or imagine.
I suspect that I am already a fossil compared to the younger generation that have grown up immersed in this new world and cannot remember a time before the internet. Before I pop off though, it is going to be interesting to watch how the next few steps evolve.