Saturday, February 4, 2012

Living With Accelerating Change

In the church circles where I participate, we’ve recently engaged several conversations simultaneously that were triggered by an incident about the use of Twitter in an open meeting. Contrary to what some might think, the inciting incident isn’t what’s important. It was merely a timely catalyst for other conversations about much more relevant issues, some of which are also very important.*

Let me set out a few thoughts that illuminate the stage on which we are all living and participating in our daily lives, whether it’s at work, at home, among friends, at church, in a legislature, having lunch, at school, or at the mall.

In an article entitled “Are You Acceleration Aware?” on The Futurist Web site, this point is made:

“. . . the world of 2100 will be more different from 2006 than 2006 is different from 8000 BC.”

Think about that:  the world of the approximately hundred year period from 2006 to 2100 will be more different than was the world of the approximately ten thousand year period from 8000 BC to 2006. Put another way, the rate of change in the world has increased one hundred times in that ten thousand year period! That means the rate of change in the world we live in today is accelerating exponentially from year to year and decade to decade within our lifetimes.

It is no wonder that we are flummoxed as individuals, and that those of us who are older are more flummoxed than those who are younger. The pace of the world into which we are acculturated as children and as students establishes a sort of baseline of the rate of change to which we become accustomed and consider our norm. My 26-year-old daughter’s experience of a rate of change as being normative is different than mine, even though I work hard to keep abreast of changes in technology and in society. I am bogged down by my memories and experiences of the way things used to be, going back 63 years. She has no experience before 26 years ago.

There is a tendency among us older generations to be nostalgic as we reflect upon what we’ve seen and experienced over a lifetime that spans decades, major world events, and technological advances and inventions that are now part of our everyday lives.** We older citizens have experienced major historical events that have changed our worldview going forward. In many cases, our emotional selves have been less agile at keeping up, and not all of us have the intellectual curiosity and/or capacity to acquire familiarity, much less facility, with the new technology. The younger generations are no longer merely citizens, but they are netizens, members of an online world based in the Internet that is real, whether we say so or not.

I have often said and reiterate now, that what keeps us young is not merely staying physically active, but also staying intellectually and emotionally curious and experimental.

Being experimental is key to staying relevant. How can anyone know without trying? And before anyone marches out the old, tired rationales of how it is foolish to try everything, let me state clearly that I am not suggesting that everyone try everything. But what if you, and I, tried a few new things that are outside our comfort zones, because the young people in our communities care about those things, obviously find value in them, and spend time and money doing them.

We just might learn something new. We might even like some of those new things. We will be less likely to be judgmental about why those new things are automatically wrong-headed, and much less likely to legislate against them and place barriers to the younger generations doing their thing and to those of us oldsters who want to join them.

*Among the topics that have been raised and that require much more conversation in wide open spaces that intersect and include church circles are the following, which I will blog about in the coming days:
  • Communications in an online world: The tensions between old modes of communication and new modes of connectivity.
  • Balancing tradition and the leading edge: Respecting our history, traditions, and old wisdom juxtaposed against embracing new visions of community and breaking innovation.
  • Breaking out of the binary: Issues of authority and tradition versus living with ambiguity and liking it.
**Some examples of these major world events in the last hundred years include the Great Depression, World Wars I & II, the moon landing, the televised assassination of JFK, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dismantling of the U.S.S.R., 9-11 and the destruction of the World Trade Center on camera, embedded press in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street Movement. Technological advances and inventions of the last century include television, transistor radios, decoding DNA, silicon chips, miniaturization and work at the atomic level in diverse scientific fields, personal computing devices, and microwave transmitters to name but a few. My list is puny compared to the catalog of the momentous events that have transpired and the gee-whiz technology that has been invented.


PseudoPiskie said...

Perhaps half of our parish is not online. Our Junior Warden isn't because she can't afford it. She doesn't get the paper either. There was a big funeral this week in our church. The JW didn't know about it. Neither did several others.

If I have to change the schedule, I have no reliable way of communicating with many, other than calling and playing phone tag. It is frustrating for me, the retired computer programmer, who has an iPhone to keep in touch wherever with the many virtual and real friends I have around the world. I live electronically. Those who can't afford to are at a disadvantage. I dislike being dismissive but I don't have much patience with those who refuse to "grow" yet complain about being left out. My stepfather got his first computer at age 87. I'm spoiled.



I hear your frustration, and I empathize.

I do understand about not being able to afford the technology and the attendant services, like wifi and connectivity. I believe that we do have to make accommodations so that people who are not online can be connected.

What I don't condone is flat-out refusal to learn and grow, because it's scary, might be hard work to get up to speed, or you just like it the way it has always been. My 42-year old son characterizes that behavior as "keeping your finger in the dike."

And what I find utterly insupportable is leaders who refuse to learn and grow, because I believe that part of the responsibility of leadership is that we are supposed to pay attention to our changing context and be responsive to it.

Kudos to your stepfather! My 83-year old mother is happily learning and playing with her iPad, a gift from my generous brother. My 73-year old husband is the technology geek that younger engineers and consultants turn to for advice on how to maximize the utility of their tech devices.

Technology is a challenge, but we can't stuff the toothpaste back in the tube.


CorinOnTheCob said...

I like your comment about being leaders. Whether you're a leader in business or in your church it's important to remember who you are trying to lead. Especially in a social organization that is "opt-in" if you are not aware of the modality that your young followers live and breathe, you run the risk that those young people will choose not to follow and you will find that you have a congregation that looks only like yourself instead of growing and continually being reinvigorated.


Corin, thanks for reading and commenting. Your remarks are spot on about opt-in organizations like churches, leaders who don't know whom they are trying to recruit and lead, and how such leaders soon find they have no members or followers, because they and their organizations have ceased to be relevant. ~~Lee