Gen Y expert Jason Dorsey says today’s ‘digital natives’ are more tech-dependent than ever. Supplied photo

Tech savvy? Tech huh?

Over-reliance on gizmos could be younger generation’s ultimate downfall

A6It’s one of those “aha” moments: Speaking to a roomful of baby boomers, bestselling author Jason Dorsey asks the audience to finish the sentence: “Generation Y is tech-….”

“Savvy!” shouts most of the crowd.

Nope, not true, says Dorsey, an expert on Gen Y, or the Millennial generation — people who became adults in the 21st century.

Tech-savvy might have been said of people born a decade or more earlier. They saw digital technology evolve from experimental to commonplace. And they had a front-row seat to the changes it made in their lives, in real time.

Like early 20th-century kids who were enthralled when the first automobile arrived in town, many of us who were around in the last quarter of the 20th century were amazed and fascinated by computers and digital technology.

A lot of us wanted to open the hood, customize, learn the terminology and maybe even build our own.

“We have no idea how this phone works. No clue. We just know we cannot live without it.”

So, what of today’s kids and young adults? They are, Dorsey says, “tech-dependent.”

“We have no idea how this phone works. No clue,” he said, pointing to the smartphone in his hand. “We just know we cannot live without it.”

Of course, when any technology evolves from “patent pending” to mainstream, interest soon shifts from how it works to what it does. Today’s young people are “digital natives,” born into a world where their pictures were on Facebook within hours — or minutes — of their birth.

Technology, for them, is about as interesting as the refrigerator or the bathtub. It’s just there.

But because of our increasing reliance on technology, this lack of interest and skepticism could quickly become a liability. For example, do your kids know how to get into the house if the security system is down? Can they call you if their phone dies? Can they open up the car doors without using a digital fob?

Can you?

By historic standards, wireless data technology is still in its infancy. Bluetooth was rolled out in 1994. The 3G cellular standard launched in 1998. Wi-Fi as we know it was more or less invented by NCR and AT&T in 1991, and a working version wasn’t released to the public until the late 1990s. That’s not even 20 years ago.

To put that into perspective, Karl Benz created the first real working automobile in 1885. Were people relying on cars, trucks and buses for their daily transportation needs within
20 years — by 1905? No way. That level of dependability evolved over the next four to six decades, and many would argue there’s still a way to go.

It’s true the pace of advancement in the digital realm has been, and continues to be, mind-boggling. (Google “Moore’s Law” for more on this.) So the comparison to century-old mechanical technology might not be 100 per cent valid.

But think about it this way: If your car breaks down, you can walk, ride your bike, take public transit, grab a Car2Go or call a taxi. Do you have the same set of options for when your digital tech acts up?

My guess is if you were born in the mid-1970s or earlier, you probably do. As much as you enjoy the ability to arm your security system and turn your furnace down from anywhere in the world on your phone screen, you haven’t become dependent on that functionality. That’s a good thing.

As for younger generations taking it for granted, at least get them to memorize your phone number. And show them how to use an old-fashioned key.

And a payphone. They still have those, right?

For more of Jason Dorsey’s insights and opinions, search “thegenyguy” on You Tube or visit jasondorsey.com.”

Miles Durrie’s Digital Downlow column appears exclusively in CREB®Now biweekly. Questions? Story suggestions? Email digitaldownlowcalgary@gmail.com.

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