In today’s world we are surrounded by technology of all shapes and sizes and it often feels like the pace of change is accelerating in ways we can’t fathom or keep up with. As a child I was lucky to have a grandfather who was a maths teacher, so I just presumed that I would be good at maths, which meant that I was less vulnerable to the school peer pressure to hate the subject (I still love it, although I have forgotten most of the complicated stuff).
Nowadays peer pressure for adults washes through our culture in ways we don’t always recognise. One bewildering aspect of this is a form of pride in being technically challenged, a sort of notion that this is a form of protection from the evils of the wilderness of historical spaces: where ‘There be Dragons’ used to be marked on unexplored territories at the edge of maps.
In this blog post (apparently even calling a little bit of written thinking a blog can trigger a stress attack in some, including my mother!) I want to explore and address some of the ways the technical problems can be rooted in.
Learning new things
A few years ago some researchers looked into the ability of older brains to learn new things compared to younger brains. The results were fascinating as, contrary to popular mantras, old brains (that function without complications) are just as capable of learning new things as young brains. The impediment is that we have all forgotten HOW to learn. My most rewarding trainee in computers a few years ago was 90 and he definitely proved it is possible as he picked up all manner of new ideas without batting an eyelid or getting stressed.
Learning is a readiness not to know all the answers all at once! It is that simple. When I was first in charge of the office computer network in the 1990s, I knew something about using a computer, which was why I was given the role, but nothing about its bits and bobs. A box of cables was like spaghetti with different ends but I hadn’t a clue what went where (and they were all different in those days – no ubiquitous USB-C). I did ALOT of blinking in the first 48 hours of that job!
It was obvious I had to learn new stuff very very quickly in order to keep the office going. This involved alot of reading and scouring of magazines and manuals etc. My first few days I tried so hard to remember everything, although I didn’t yet begin to understand the important differentiation between ‘space’ and ‘memory’, which is actually crucial. (Space is how much room you have on the computer to save things into, memory is like the computer’s elbow-room, how much it can cope with multi-tasking). In the end I made a decision that was incredibly powerful. I stopped trying to remember and just read to soak up the ideas and words that were being used. My ability to understand and therefore to remember took a huge leap forwards.