I’m just back at my desk after a week in a small village France with my parents. My laptop is out of action so I was without e-mail and internet for a week – quite refreshing. It also gave me plenty of time to think and to discuss things with my folks and, more than ever before, I was struck by the deeply entrenched antipathy to technology of my father. He’s an intelligent individual, and his interest in all things to do with maps and geography has always impressed me.
But how can someone be almost proud to dislike technology the way he is? “I might get 20 e-mails a day at work!” he railed. “Only 2 of them are probably useful. Why can’t these people just talk to me instead?” So speaks a school teacher nearing the end of his career, someone that never needed to use e-mail for the first fourth fifths of his working life. I would also argue that he’s perhaps ignoring the fact that most conversations with colleagues are not especially productive, and it’s probably harder to shut up someone in a conversation than it is to delete an e-mail from them… but that’s a side issue.
Importantly all of this made me wonder: at what point does the brain cease to function positively, cease to see the opportunities of anything new? And when is it going to happen to me? Does the Max Planck quote
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it
necessarily hold true? When am I going to succumb – has it already started? Am I going to become a bald, overweight, stodgy fifty year old political hack, someone who cannot bear to employ really young and sharp people because they might well be sharper than I am? Does EU politics have no place for people who speak their mind? Or were there people who spoke what was on their mind but were then just too constrained by the system, and a few oddities slipped through the net?
Following on from the rant about technology was the customary “why are you not saving for your pension?” statement from my father, linked to questions about whether I am earning enough at what I do. Perhaps he better have a read of Steve Jobs’s Stanford Speech, or How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham (link via Helena who’s the epitomy of that) and try to get his head around it, or at least see that’s what makes me tick.
Yet I cannot escape the feeling that I’m in a tiny minority here, a person whose Gehirn nie zu ruhen scheint, something that’s neither easy nor normal.