Sunday, May 13, 2007

What are the kids up to?

I am in the middle of reading John Brockman's Edge question for 2007: What are you optimistic about?, and although it is all very interesting, it strikes me that almost all of these "visions" are rather dated and even somewhat stale, probably because these are the ideas that people of the "boomer" generation grew up with in the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, and even most of the 1990's. Enough of the stuff already. What I really want to know is: What are the kids up to? Not in the sense of what toys do they play with and what tools do they work with, but what ground are they beginning to break and what visions of the future do they have that are their own creation and not something that was spoon-fed to them or rammed down their throats by a well-meaning but misguided elite.

By "kids", specifically I mean young people who:

  • Grew up with the Internet and the Web as their earliest significant computing experience, or at least since they were juniors in high school
  • Experienced 9/11 while in high school or freshmen in college, at a time when it had a chance to dramatically shape the way they started to view the geopolitical world
  • Just assume that global warming and climate change are "real" since the concepts were not "new" to them even when they were juniors or seniors in high school
  • Have been exposed to open source software in college
  • Have had a cell phone since high school and most of their classmates in high school had cell phones
  • Are no older than 25 (or maybe 26 or 27) and consider people who are 28 or 29 or 30 as already "too old" to "understand"
  • Are not deeply attracted to and attached to traditional politics and political parties such as the Republicans and the Democrats, and have their own politics and world view
  • Have been blogging since high school
  • Since high school have had teachers and professors who are challenging traditional views of economics, politics, and social structures

What I am interest in is:

  • What fields of intellectual study are they most attracted to?
  • What aspects of computing excite them the most?
  • Are they breaking any new ground, or simply "refashioning the wheel"?
  • What are examples of computing breakthroughs by the 20 to 25-year olds?
  • What are some hard-core examples of great leaps that kids have made compared to Ray Kurzweil, Dan Bricklin, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Larry Ellison, Bill Joy, et al when they were of this same age (20-25)?

Is it really true that "change is accelerating"? If so, we should see a much larger list of breakthroughs than for those "old-timers."

I'd also like to see two lists: one for applications, but primarily one for underlying technological fundamentals. Applications like YouTube, Digg, and Facebook go on that first list, but what I am primarily interested in is what fundamental technology ground is being broken by "the kids"?

-- Jack Krupansky

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