Can you only adapt for so long?

By Dylan Lysen

Earlier this week the Gmail app on my phone updated to a new display. Instead of the normal list of emails in a generic pattern for easy reading, the app now uses a bunch of colors and pushed spam and social media emails into my main folder.

I did not appreciate it.

Although my generation was raised during a massive technology boom, and the rapidly changing landscape of the tools we use has become second nature to us, I feel there will be a time where I can no longer adapt.

I realized this because of our society’s move to driverless cars.

In Helsinki, Finland, the local government already began to use driverless buses for public transportation, according to the New York Times. One of the possible effects is fewer people driving on the road, which could cut down on collisions and on car emissions that hurt the environment.

Well, I guess that seems good.

And in a recent Landon Lecture at K-State, Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman, advocated for the potential use of autonomous technology.

“And ideally such an autonomous vehicle would be able to act without a human’s judgment lapse or execution inadequacies,” he said.

He’s basically saying humans mess everything up, and I tend to agree with him. But what if we are scared out of our minds about this?

One of my coworkers argues that technology has changed so much for during our generation’s lifetime that new technology in the future won’t be as jarring as it has been for earlier generations. But I always had a suspicion that I would eventually not be able to adapt. I guessed this would happen around the time I turned 40 and all these dang kids and their (insert whatever the heck kids are using in the next 15 years)!

So I made the joke that I will never use a driverless car. When I’m older the younger generations will see me walking around, mumbling to myself decrying these godforsaken machines, and spitting on the ground as they pass by, the kids will say, “There’s Old Man Lysen. He just doesn’t get it!”

But I may be wrong.

Back in his lecture at K-State, Bush said much of the hysteria over autonomous technology is overblown because of popular culture’s doom and gloom portrayal of it.

Bush’s example was the film “Terminator,” which is about an autonomous robot going back in time to kill people. Doom and gloom indeed.

It’s very possible I’m overthinking it (or not thinking enough).

I’ve come to realize the idea of older generations struggling to adapt to new technology is overblown. I remember last year when my family went to go see a movie during the holidays, my 61-year-old father looked up from his iPhone to give me the reviews of the film.

“It’s 99 percent fresh,” he said, reading from the online film critic website Rotten Tomatoes, a website I did not know he knew existed. (I found this hilarious.) My dad is also a very good with a keyboard, even though he’s had no training whatsoever. He only uses his two pointer fingers, though, tapping away like a hungry bird eating feed. (This is another thing I find hilarious).

For my generation, this skill was taught to a great degree in middle school.

It’s obviously not impossible for me to adapt to this new technology of driverless cars. It’s even possible this technology will be available for everyone in the next years when I’m still ready and able to adapt without any hesitation at all.

Maybe I’ll always be able to adapt, even when I’m a 60-year-old father who doesn’t have any formal training of the new technology. (And maybe it will be hilarious).

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