Last night during dinner, my 15 year old son and I started talking about the on-line games that he plays. As he described the on-line world that so captivates him and the others in his age group, I felt like a technology and social neophyte. The world that is represented with net based games made me wonder just what the world is going to be like when kids of his generation reach adulthood and are the ones running the world. During my trip to Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend, my friend Mark and I reminisced about how we spent out time as kids playing basketball, tennis, and music. We spent our time with each other in the physical world. But today, it seems like the majority of the social interaction between kids now takes place in a virtual world with people they have never met. Hours and hours of time spent inside games that present mental challenges, adventure, fantasy, and other attributes that people of my generation probably have very little understanding of.
It is easy to say, as previous generations have, that kids 'now a days' just don't have the social skills to develop into productive human beings. They are being tarnished by their pastimes. I suspect this is not the case, but it does make me think what the world will be like in 30 years given how these young minds are being influenced by their recreational activities.
The future will be an even more of an on-line world. Buying goods and services over the internet like we do today is just the beginning and serves as a teaser of what is to come. Finding any fact about any subject in a matter of seconds, like we can today with Google, is an incredible technology achievement and makes our world smaller and our people more educated. Social networking like Facebook, Linkedin, and Match has make it easier to keep tabs on people we know, and to meet people whose paths we would never have crossed. Having access to any news when you want it, regardless of it's bias, makes our world smaller, gives us a more global understanding, and has the potential to make people more understanding of each other (ok, maybe that is a stretch).
The online world does have it's dark side. It is sad to think that pornography is the largest revenue generator on the net. Certainly combined with the fact that young people spend so much time on-line, will they be able to establish meaningful and loving relationships when their social and sexual needs are satisfied by the Net. I can't imagine the impact of this. We marvel at the achievements of Google, but as they continue to grow, more and more of our personal information is kept in the millions of computers operated by the company. Our emails, phone calls, bank and investment records, and our personal preferences and interests represented by our on line searches. What is the impact of this moving forward?
During diner last night, my son and I hypothesized about the next major conflict between countries. He recognized that wars will be fought, not with guns and missiles, but with silicon. Countries exploiting computer networks and software to attack power grids, financial systems, communications, and other public and private utilities to cause havoc, confusion, and hardship for the citizens of it's adversaries. Will nuclear weapons even be necessary to resolve conflicts between nations? This seems like an on-line computer game, doesn't it.