Virtual Youth

The rather sudden generational embrace of the cybernetic age presented considerable challenges; as parents were struggling to master the requirements of the new digital technology, their children were picking up the skills and assumptions swiftly and intuitively. Soon enough, it became difficult for those in the midst of the wake of the technological revolution to imagine or even remember a world in which it hadn’t always been like this.

Granted, most of the issues that we were faced with were nothing more than the same old issues, made more imminent or sizable only by the magnifying effect of the 24/7 switched-on nature of 21st Century connectivity. One might reflect upon the straggling controversies and unresolved debates that became international dilemmas when given the steroidal social augmentation shot of the Internet.

In hindsight, one might say that we should have settled many of these issues long ago. For many people, it was still too quick to go from having a handful of geographically-scattered (out of sight, out of mind) gambling locations to being able to find out, at any time of the day, from anywhere with Internet access, how to play online. Not many oldsters are on board, but just ask your kids about this one.

We won’t satisfy everyone about the gambling debate any time soon. And children (even younger than ever) are becoming more capable, more resourceful, and more familiar with the online environment. Alarmists love to point at the exceptions that seem to prove their point, but the hopeful truth is that most Internet-savvy kids are used to the existence of things like gambling and loan refinancing, and are developing the skills to cope with it. Just because something exists equally to everyone doesn’t mean that everyone, or even the majority, are going to have a similar response.

For the sake of discussion, lets take a look at an easy to understand example that does not involve internet technology. Think about sterling silver jewelry. This is something that is very subjective, what you like is very unlikely what I like, even though I may agree about the intrinsic value, which is based on the silver content. A craftsman may create sterling silver rings and bracelets, converting raw silver stock into a wearable art form. We may find the end result gorgeous or hideous. But there is no way anyone can absolutely determine the appeal of such offerings, and while there may be jewelers capable of evaluating the finished rings and bracelets for pricing purposes, there will be no consensus regarding the desirability of the finished product. This is not a generational thing – some young people will indeed share the tastes of older folks. Yet, since silver is a store of wealth an carries an inherent value, we can agree that melted down, all silver jewelry will have SOME VERY SPECIFIC value, based on purity and the time of the evaluation, even if we hate the design of the original artisan. What I love, you may think frivolous, and visa versa.

And this may prove to be a powerful response to the ongoing debate than anything that the previous generations could have achieved. By dealing without preconceptions of our new virtual reality, we may be able to see our ‘actual’ reality without some of the less essentially beneficial aspects of tradition, morality, and the other subliminal forces of cultural inertia.

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