More on the Age Question

16 Jun ’07

Fred tackles the age question again today. Gist:

Who is developing this “clearer idea”? Who is developing the set of “design patterns”? It’s the younger generation. And its important to understand why.

It is incredibly hard to think of new paradigms when you’ve grown up reading the newspaper every morning. When you turn to TV for your entertainment. When you read magazines on the train home from work.

But we have a generation coming of age right now that has never relied on newspapers, TV, and magazines for their information and entertainment. They are the net natives. They grew up in AOL chatrooms, IMing with their friends for hours after dinner, and went to school with a Facebook login.

The Internet is their medium and they are showing us how it needs to be used.

And that’s clearly true (although I suppose it begs the question of how it was that a bunch of older people designed the new paradigm that is the Internet in the first place). But it also seems to me to be just one of an infinite number of examples of the essential idea, which is that Young wants to be different than Old; wants to find its own way. The Young do what they do they way they do it, and take the world with them as they go. Always have, always will. And the Old tend not to follow – for various reasons.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John June 18, 2007 at 20:56

It would surprise me if we older folk even recognize the internet in, say, a decade or so. The dreams, desires and change of necessity of todays youth are going to change the very face of everything we see today.

We though, in the late 80’s that our BBS’s and network technologies were the proverbial cat’s ass. I had a copy of my BBS kicking around and thought it would be fun to show my son. So proud was I, until he laughed his proverbial butt off.

The bottom line is, everything commercial changes and is enhanced by the consumer. The consumer in this case is primarily 12 – 30. Indeed, the technologies and frameworks we devised 25 and 30 years ago are still relevant for they formed the basis of the architecture of today. Without a foundation a building never stands.

We provided the foundation. The kids are going to build the skyscrapers.


Rob Hyndman June 18, 2007 at 07:11

Great comment, Norm – as usual. Thanks much.


Norman Young June 17, 2007 at 13:01

Hi, Rob.

Thing is, our generation didn’t design the Internet that Fred describes, any more than Gutenberg invented the Renaissance, or James Watt invented the Industrial Revolution.

The design process comprises two phases. Synthesis originates candidate ideas which we hope might be useful. Analysis tests the ideas to see which ones actually solve relevant problems.

For the older generation’s part, we’ve synthesized almost 5,000 Requests for Comment (RFC) since 1969. RFC’s describe the Internet’s technical design ideas. Which of those 5,000 RFC’s are our younger generation applying when they use chat, instant messaging, or social networking? I’m guessing fewer than 1%.

The older generation has one thing that the younger does not, until we teach them: A framework in which to first observe the contrast of historical change, and to then extrapolate from its lessons.

Just as the widespread dissemination of the written word fed the demand for secular information, and as the growth of industrial class fed the demand for manufactured goods, the Internet feeds its own growth.

On that point, I take some exception with the older generation’s claim to the Internet’s recent technical evolution. What is the average age of Barcamp devotees, or Mesh entrepreneurs? Younger than me, that’s for sure.

The Internet is young and growing because it’s young and growing. The gift of age is in having known a difference.



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