My kids listen to AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Eminem. My girls wear bell bottom jeans, loose flowing blouses and hairbands while texting on smartphones. My son cuts his hair short, mixes rap on his laptop and carries enough music in his pocket to fill a small truck with the vinyl equivalent. Cloud storage is reviving the era of terminal based computing. Youtube has re-birthed the era of live video. And social networking has brought communication back as a revived art form.
I considered recently that the past 60 years encompass one of the longest, if not the longest, periods of multi-generational adoption of cultural norms in the last millennium. We are in a time when four generations (or more depending on who is counting) have listened to basically the same music and worn the same styles of clothing for six decades (with the exception of disco, which some of us wish had never happened in the first place). This same demographic mix has also grown up with live communication technologies like television, telephone, and radio and is now immersed with more of the same deployed through the modern infrastructure we call the Internet.
One of the fundamental differences is that the ability to contribute content to this audience is now open to anyone who has access to the Web. Democratized distribution is the name of the game. And in many cases, the content promoted by this audience is judged in a similar democratic way. The people determine what is good and what is bad; and not just by their vote, but by their own contributions of material that compete for attention by the same audience. This self regulating system drives the standards for quality of content up while simultaneously providing mechanisms for feedback and improvement by those who wish to contribute their guidance and instruction.
There is a movement afoot to take this paradigm and apply it in many areas of personal and professional life. It may be the solution to our failing educational system. Students around the globe may have the opportunity to learn from the best teachers in the world regardless of proximity. Professionals seeking knowledge and information, answers to business problems may use this network to gather information or resources to help them find solutions. And, the two may work together to share youthful perspective and out-of-the-box thinking while gaining experience from real world practice.
As we have seen over the past three score years we are a society that has elected to maintain its youthful outlook by embracing change and assimilating it as a part of our own while persisting those elements of previous generations so they might be embraced by our young. As a part of this process, the transformation of how we generate and exchange knowledge, skills and information may take time to fully understand and accept. For it is not simply an alternative to the systems we have in place today, but rather an evolutionary replacement to support our global transformation into the world of tomorrow.