BW_brainI’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.


  1. Fine, see the positive, but can’t you also see the negative?

  2. It seems childish for a grown man to care about the latest mobile phone or games console.

    And there lies the misconception. I don’t play games on games consoles, and apart from Tetris and SimCity have never really played computer games at all. But I can see the point, the opportunity, the fun with games consoles.

    So it’s not about whether you use each and every single technology that’s available to you – there are too many anyway – but more about whether you can see the positive sides of what is available.

  3. I’m a bit of a technophobe, and like all such people, I’m proud to be so, at least where consumer electronics comes in. It seems childish for a grown man to care about the latest mobile phone or games console. As for your father, I guess his view is that he coped well enough before email, and sees no improvement to his life from adopting it.

  4. Hmmm, I understand the technophobe position. But I don’t respect it! And my father thinks he has logic on his side, so why bother to read up on it if you’re that closed?

  5. I think it’s about mentality, not age.
    If you are intellectual, interested in ideas and learning, neophile etc. then the most fun people to be with are the ones that seek out new interesting ideas but they can be 22 or 72 – as the lovely people at my church frequently demonstrate.
    But if you have a different set of interests, and love the company of those that reinforce those views, then you might find this the most irritating thing ever.
    If life starts to grind you down and gets on top of you e.g. constant tiredness, too much stress, it impacts on your view of the world and makes you more likely to cling to what you have and take a negative position on something different. Feeling acknowledged, respected, valued can offset it a bit, of course.
    Life is inevitably going to be different for us compared with our parents generation.
    If we’re realistic we know that we’re probably going to have to work til we drop, that we are going to need for things that they expect to be free (in order that they can still be for them and those in most need), that any final salary pension we’ve gathered will not be grandfathered forever etc.
    Even if you go for the “traditional” path (marriage and babies), your life is different – both parents generally need to work. But that means a different family structure and a whole lot of questions and pressures from a generation that didn’t have to make those choices, partly because of the economic conditions at that time when e.g. inflation wiped out a lot of mortgage debt.
    Given that changed context, the new way of working (working in order to take on new experiences, travel, not wanting to be bound by living in a particular country or work in a particular industry forever) can be embraced by the lucky or perhaps less-risk adverse few.
    As for speaking your mind, I think that a bit more honesty in the world would be a good thing – that open discussion and challenge are healthy but that it needs to be on the grounds of equals, without vested interests, and without acrymony. I’ve started speaking truth unto power – it’s working so far…
    But we can all dream.
    I’m no parental psychologist (although as a parent I have to try to be aware of these sorts of dynamics) so Ican offer only one more amateur thought: it’s probably just that he cares about you and your future wellbeing, but is expressing it in his terms. The reading recommendations are a good idea. What are you going to read in return to try to understand the technophobe position? πŸ™‚

  6. Ah, well, that might explain why – when I speak to you – we manage to chat for hours about all kinds of interesting things! πŸ™‚

  7. Why all these thoughts ring more than a bell in me?? πŸ˜‰

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