Because kids are adept at adopting new technology before they’re even old enough to talk, does that mean the next generation is going to grow up using that kind of technology in different ways than we do today?

It’s a good question, and it’s one that I’ve seen a number of articles addressing. Most recently, this piece from Advertising Age talks about how the writer Mike Henry’s 18-month-old son is already actually using the iPhone and iPad. Not just hitting buttons at random, but actually choosing the specific apps he wants to play with.

Here’s what we’ve found most interesting: While our son still has some tolerance for passive video watching on a television or mobile device, when given the choice, he almost always chooses the interactive experience. His own desire for engagement, combined with new technology that’s so easy a 1-year-old can use it, has already built strong media consumption preferences that will dramatically affect his long-term relationship with what we call "television."

From that, Henry infers that his son’s generation is going to demand much more interactivity in his media than the current generation, which in turn means that advertising is going to have to adapt.

I’m a little more skeptical. I think we’d all like to believe that the next generation is going to be made up of media geniuses, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer. There are a lot more factors involved with shaping the creation and consumption of media than our tastes from when we’re toddlers.

And on the other side of things, the multitasking media mindset may not be all positive. I wrote an article a few months back about the possibility that multitasking was affecting our minds in negative ways, relating to dopamine and the “seeking center” of the brain. Now here’s a lengthy piece in the New York Times again looking at that possibility.

This article covers a family of gadget-lovers who have trouble juggling their lust for gadgets and their multitasking distractability with their everyday life. Some of these anecdotes are real winners:

Recently, she was baking peanut butter cookies for Teacher Appreciation Day when her phone chimed in the living room. She answered a text, then became lost in Facebook, forgot about the cookies and burned them. She started a new batch, but heard the phone again, got lost in messaging, and burned those too. Out of ingredients and shamed, she bought cookies at the store.

Whether it’s for the better or the worse, the way technology changes also changes the ways we interact with it. It may take some time for us to come to terms with the latest batch of changes—by which time the next batch will likely be upon us.

Can the Singularity be far behind?


  1. When I bought my first computer, I had to learn to program. There wasn’t much else to do with it. Back then, all computers came with programming languages (even the PC). We were, in a real sense, all creators and it was possible for a kid with a computer to create something him/herself, even to found a company that would become a giant.

    Think of the car as an analogy. Two generations ago, when cars were new, everyone was a mechanic. Now, our cars are so complex we can’t do anything.

    I’m not sure our coming generations will be that much more technical or smart. They will take for granted what to us is a set of miracles. Then again, with luck, they will have their own (positive) miracles.

    Rob Preece

  2. …I’m really not seeing a “danger” of multitasking. I am seeing a stupid bimbo who got distracted by something shiny.

    You know why I like interactivity? Because I’ve never subscribed to the notion that the only way to learn is to sit quietly, remain passive, and have knowledge pissed onto me by The Grand High Arbiter Of Knowing Stuff.

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