Resistance Is Futile: Coping with the Inevitable Future

Recently, Mike Johnston (of The Online Photographer) wrote a post about doing things they way he wanted, which in most cases was the way he’d always done them. Despite having adopted digital photography, Mike seems reluctant to adapt to other changes in the modern world. An interesting dichotomy: he’ll shoot digital photos but does not want a cell phone. He got me thinking.

When I bought a car a few months back, I went with a manual transmission drive (which is rare in the US). This wasn’t because it was what I was used to having learnt to drive in Europe, but because I find manual transmission gives me more control over the behaviour and handling of the car. This is much the same reason why I only embraced photography fully when digital gave me total control over every step of the process. But manual cars, at least with a gear stick, are on their way out. In Europe, more and more cars are appearing with automatic transmission that also allows for “quick-shift” gear changing (please excuse my lack of a technical term for this). While I still prefer having a clutch and gear stick, I know their days are counted and am expecting cars with gear shifting through paddles on the steering wheel, just like current Formula 1 cars. I’ll miss the clutch, and my left foot will grow bored, but I must embrace the change.

Much in Life is like this. We live too long not to have great technological changes happen during our lifetimes. My father was born in a small farming village in Spain, and he still remembers seeing his first car as a young child. Now he drives a car that can tell him how to get from one point of Spain to another with an error of only 10 meters. But my father doesn’t have a cell phone, nor does he know how to use a computer. Another dichotomy.

Reading Mike’s essay I was immediately reminded of an old article by the late, great Douglas Adams, mostly famous for being the creator of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which was a book long before it became a film, kids, and a radio show before it ever hit the written page). In his short essay How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet (originally published in the News Review section of The Sunday Times on August 29th 1999), Adams describes how we view technology in the following way:

  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.

While funny, it’s probably mostly true. Although I might like to add another entry:

  1. Anything that gets invented after you’re fifty is so close to magic as to be impossible to ever fathom, and thus you just “leave it to the youngsters” and never worry about trying to use it.

I promised myself back in 2000 (when I first read Adams’s article) that I would not fall into categories 3 or 4. Thus, I try to keep up to date with technological and social advances, although I can already, in my early thirties, feel myself lagging behind my pledge. For example, what the hell is Twitter and why do I need to make like a bird? Do I really need a Facebook account?

“You cannot afford to be obsolete if you expect to survive, let alone thrive.”

I shouldn’t be asking myself these questions, instead I should be embracing these services wholeheartedly, all the while hoping they’re nothing but a fad so I can turn around and say “I told you so!”. The thing is, if they turn out not to be a fad (like the internet, cell phone, colour TV, electricity and the wheel proved not to be), I better be up to date and know how to use them. Because herein lies the problem of not adopting emerging trends: the opposite of up to date is obsolete. Do you want to be obsolete? In today’s world of unstable markets, growing population, developing economies and ever-shrinking profit margins, you cannot afford to be obsolete if you expect to survive, let alone thrive.

The reason my father never learned how to use a computer is that he believed he didn’t need to. He felt his time for learning new technologies had passed and that he could make it to the finish line without ever needing them. He is now retired, in his mid-70’s, and he might have been right, but that was a large gamble he took. But whatever his personal agenda was, he did realise the importance of emerging technologies and continuously encouraged me and my sister to learn about them. Thanks to his motivation and approval I am a young adult who feels confident in this ever-increasing technological world. And thanks to Douglas Adams I hope to have a fighting chance of reaching 50 and still being up to date with the latest gizmos. However, I do wonder if I can be like Mike and successfully cherry-pick the new technologies I embrace.

I also ask myself, what on earth are the kids of today listening to? They call that music!?

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13 Responses to “Resistance Is Futile: Coping with the Inevitable Future”

  1. Mis, very well written article, although, I think you misinterpreted the term “young adult’ … which in terms of the book market – describes the Teen crowd. “Twilight” was a novel written for “young adults”.

    I can appreciate your father’s disinterest in computers. I remember the first time I considered my father ‘old’ – it was when I asked him to fax me something, and he refused, saying “I’ve never done that, and I won’t” … he called me a few hours later, saying he would. I think my mother (20 years younger) had to talk him into it. 🙂

  2. Mis – it’s sad for you men… going straight from puberty to midlife crises. 😀 Didn’t you tell us you bought a beamer? surely that’s a sign of fast approaching midlife crises more than squeeky voice sindrome…

    But, I guess my maturity level hasn’t changed much either (although I’m hardly pubescent) – I just try to hide the aging process by pulling out the grey hairs and using lots of moisturizer.

  3. Miserere,

    You’ve know about me for a while now. Although what you write applies to the masses, there are more and more people like me that never quit. I will be turning 61 in March, and I am up-to-date with all technologies and will always be unless my brain quits working. I believe that the day you quit learning, you put one foot in the grave. It seems that people in general get stuck in an era and don’t ever want to move forward thereafter.

    This is not a mid-life crisis for me. I’ve always been that way. I can honesly say that my attitude toward life and progress as remained as it was when I was in my twenties.

    I still have the same mind as when I was younger, but I am trapped in this ever aging body. I still play rock music with my Tele and strat guitars, still stay up to date with everything electronic and still ride my rock crawler Jeep as much as I can, which is several times every week.

    I am scared to ever quit. The day I quit is the dayI will start pushing daisies.

  4. I don’t know if I’d buy an expensive car…

    midlife crises for me = buy an expensive camera… and matching lenses…

    Mis – shame you talked down Leica … because they’re a sweet (and old) system…

    I may have to consider the Contax G2 instead…

    • Rosey, I don’t think I’ve ever talked down Leica because of its quality, but rather because of its price and boutique attitude. If I were a millionaire I’d probably have quite a Leica collection, but I’m not.

      I wouldn’t mind a G2 either. Coupled with its 28, 45 and 90mm lenses I’d be a very happy shooter.

      My birthday is coming up soon, in case you’re wondering what to get me 😉

  5. darn! It looks like I know what I’m getting with my tax returns this year… (if I have one)

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/contax/g-system.htm

    according to Ken – the price on these actually may be more reasonable than I thought they were… 🙂

    Mis, I know I won’t say present – but if I have one, and you want to borrow – that’s almost as good as owning, right? 😉

    • Mis, I know I won’t say present – but if I have one, and you want to borrow – that’s almost as good as owning, right? 😉

      Ooohhh… I might take you up on that offer. It would be nice to try the G2 out over a nice weekend. Thanks, Rose!

  6. Since I like to poke holes in your articles (well I like to try), I like 5 speeds/4speeds/3speeds but like most people like me, it’s a trade-off. I drive 20-40k per year (well my odometer says I do, not even counting my miles in my wifes car). If you do the math, assuming I’m driving at least 40mph average (seems reasonable if not lofty based on the average speed gauge in my wifes car hovering around 41-43 over 10k miles) that equates to 600-1000 hours per year in a car, not counting sleep time!!! I’ll be honest with you, I only spend a few more hours a year at work. So while a 5 speed is fun, it’s impractical. Also, growing up in NY metro, driving a stick isn’t fun in stop and go traffic, actually it’s a headache, or worse a nightmare. So more control yes, more practical no. Case in point, many racers and truck drivers prefer autos in there daily drivers. This is because it’s nice to not shift from time to time. If I had a third car, it would be a diesel 5 speed, with the ABS crippled (i already have an ABS cutoff on my car), and traction control turned off, and AWD with an LSD, and a moderate turbo, but life is about compromises…btw, what was the article about again!!!

    • btw, what was the article about again!!!

      Not about cars! 😀 Slow traffic is a reason to get a hybrid shifting car: automatic when you can’t be bothered with shifting, manual when you feel like having control.

  7. Your writing is really addictive for anyone with any hint of interest in photography.

    Another well written article and I believe your blog is my daily bread before prayer

  8. This one got to me. I’ve spent most of the day troubleshooting my mother’s (also mid 70s) computer, save a bit of driving around in what sounds a lot like Justin’s hypothetical 3rd car.

    I don’t know if it comes with age, but since I turned 40 automating things just seems more and more attractive, be they cameras, gearboxes, whatever. I think that the illusion of control that comes with the manual overide is overrated.

    On a more purely photographic note, I’ve taken a while to get my teeth into exposure compensation. I learned the craft with 70s vintage manual SLRs and have always been in a manual or automatic paradigm. The new automatic with some manual influence ways appeal to me.

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