Monday, November 17, 2008

The minds of the members of the next generation

The Economist has a review of Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott. I quote:
In the past two years, Don Tapscott has overseen a $4.5m study of nearly 8,000 people in 12 countries born between 1978 and 1994. In “Grown Up Digital” he uses the results to paint a portrait of this generation that is entertaining, optimistic and convincing. The problem, he suspects, is not the net generation but befuddled baby-boomers, who once sang along with Bob Dylan that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is”, yet now find that they are clueless about the revolutionary changes taking place among the young.

“As the first global generation ever, the Net Geners are smarter, quicker and more tolerant of diversity than their predecessors,” Mr Tapscott argues. “These empowered young people are beginning to transform every institution of modern life.” They care strongly about justice, and are actively trying to improve society—witness their role in the recent Obama campaign, in which they organised themselves through the internet and mobile phones and campaigned on YouTube.
Comment: Intelligence is an odd concept. Benet invented the index to predict how well kids would do in school. The military developed a similar index to predict how well young men would do in military service.

Now days it seems clear that there are many different kinds of mental abilities. Mozart's brain dealt with music in an exceptional way, as Einstein's did with concepts of space and time, as Leonard da Vinci's with the depiction of scenes on canvas. It is hard to imagine that their minds were not very different one from the other.

Basically, intelligence is a measure of the ability of the mind to deal with certain kinds of situations. The situations that will face the members of the 11 to 30 year old generation in rich countries are quite different than the situations that faced their grandparents, or that face their poor contemporaries in the least developed nations. I am not sure that the measure of the ability to face one set of circumstances should be compared with the measure of the ability to face another, different set of circumstances.

Still, the kids today seem very with it, and the amplification of analytic and communications abilities that they have adopted through the use of ICT should make them very capable indeed. Their augmented mental abilities should compare to those of my generation as the machine augmented physical abilities of the beneficiaries of the industrial revolution did to their peasant ancestors. JAD

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