Douglas Adams on generational rhythms in the adoption of tech

Douglas Adams was the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  We have just passed the 10th anniversary of his death

In 1999, when the internet was still being greeted with some suspicion in some quarters. (Hey, just a couple of years ago, a group of planners at a big agency were prepared to tell me that social media was just a passing fancy.)  Adams wrote an essay that includes this wonderful passage that segments technology adopters by age:

Then there’s the peculiar way in which certain BBC presenters and journalists … pronounce internet addresses. It goes ‘www DOT … bbc DOT… co DOT… uk SLASH… today SLASH…’ etc., and carries the implication that they have no idea what any of this new-fangled stuff is about, but that you lot out there will probably know what it means.

I suppose earlier generations had to sit through all this huffing and puffing with the invention of television, the phone, cinema, radio, the car, the bicycle, printing, the wheel and so on, but you would think we would learn the way these things work, which is this:

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.

It would certainly explain those planners.

Thanks for Steve Crandall for telling me about this essay.  

10 thoughts on “Douglas Adams on generational rhythms in the adoption of tech

  1. Rick Liebling

    So the interesting question here is, ‘why?’ What about our biology or culture or upbringing makes this so? There is no law saying we must turn into sour-pusses. And ultimately, isn’t it the people who can maintain that child-like (or youthful) wonder that do the truly great things? Imagine if we could train a generation to break through this entrenched paradigm.

  2. Grant

    Rick. This is a great observation and an urgent task. How do we prepare people for the wind tunnel of change! Best. Grant

  3. Reese Mitchell

    I love this outlook. I know too many people who are afraid of tech no matter what it is.
    They see it as an unnecessary evil of the young. When people decide they will no longer
    adapt to change is beyond me. I love change and the prospect for more change is exciting,
    but apparently I’m in the minority. So many people adapt to change as a necessity and not
    as a welcome addition to their lives. Curious stuff.

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  5. zero

    spot on. I turned 30 last year, and find myself caring less and less about the iPhone 5, white or yellow casings on old products etc… As long as I can do what I want to, I don’t care about the actual tech anymore, whereas five years ago I would spend half a day reading technology blogs, Wired etc.

  6. Chris Green

    I can not say I don’t care about technology, but I am not one of the guys on the line at the apple stores latest release. I tend to gravitate more towards things that make life a bit easier to handle than just the new modish products. I like IPAD NO, Lap top yes. I pick and choose but I do stay abreast of all things new. I love the evolution

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