I gave a speech a bit over one year ago that cited Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (physiological, security, social, esteem, and self-actualization), though I modified it slightly to conform to needs as we now experience them. Primary attention for many of us who identify with the dominant culture has shifted to esteem needs, which include personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment. However, those values are frequently distorted by seeking empty and vacuous fame and false social recognition. This is especially prevalent among the young, whose physiological and security needs are typically satisfied by parents. Indeed, the young have difficulty imaging scenarios where those needs aren’t met passively, which is to say effortlessly, though the recognition is dawning on many in their 20s that the living standards enjoyed by their elders are difficult to replicate.
A recent study reported on in USA Today describes the very thing I mentioned in my speech, namely, that esteem needs for today’s youth trump other concerns. They prefer praise over things like sex, alcohol, money, or even a best friend. This comes as no surprise to anyone paying attention, as evidence abounds that an entire generation of people have been encouraged to believe the world revolves around them. Similar charges have been levied on baby boomers, but as narcissism indices show, the parents got nothin’ on the kids.
From the not-really-news department comes a report of things due to be dropped from use, never to become part of the memories of people just now being born:
- travel agents
- separation of work and home
- books, magazines, and newspapers (and newspaper classifieds)
- movie rental stores
- paper maps
- wired phones
- dial-up Internet service
- forgotten friends (and forgotten anything else)
- the evening news on TV
- cameras that use film
The list goes on, but you get the idea. I doubt pretty seriously that most of these things will go the way of the dodo or that even if they do their prior existence will fail to register on those born after their disappearance. After all, technologies from yesteryear still exist in museums, in films, and in archives that we use and enjoy today. So for instance, books, CDs, and newspapers will simply disappear? Nope. Sorry. They may rise or fall in their prevalence of use, but the sheer fact that libraries collect these media will ensure they will still exist and be useful for a long time yet to come.
Yes, technologies do come and go, but the news of the death of most of these is wildly premature and imprudent. These death notices are predicated on the availability of alternatives that serve the same or slightly updated functions, but the alternatives suffer from their own lack of permanence and vulnerability to failure. GPS is more permanent that a paper map? I doubt it. Encyclopedias will dry up and blow away? Please. They’re moving online, but they still exist. Print media are moving online, too, but the printed page is still valuable and preferred in many instances.
I’m not impressed by techno-Utopian writers who opine breathlessly about the future just over the horizon and how quaint our current technologies will soon be. As recent failures of the iPhone alarm function demonstrate, it might also be premature to embrace every new technology and abandon tried-and-true old tech.