LOL – Change the record Grandad

Have you ever noticed? > Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders.

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‘The world has changed.’ This statement, more than any other, has repeatedly wheedled its way into my columns in the last three years.

The world has changed since Grandad’s day.

Human lives have always evolved and changed, from generation to generation – that’s the nature of human evolution. That’s progress. Humans adapt and learn to do things in ways that afford security, enjoyment, safety, sustenance, and satisfaction. As a species we generally consciously strive to enhance our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, though the three are not always in balance.

The wheel was invented about 7,000 years ago, and 3,000 years later horse-drawn carts started to really speed up travel and haulage. Fast forward another 4,000 years and we have cars with wheels driven by engines containing numerous other variants of smaller wheels.

During that period of advancement several hundred generations of humans were able to slowly adapt to the changes brought on by the wheel. No problem.

But now problems brought on by change are emerging daily. Change is happening fast – really, really fast – and we no longer have the luxury of learning from our forebears how to adapt and best deal with change.

The speed of change is causing social groups to splinter and fracture – goths, punks, neo-Nazis, conspiracists, antivaxxers, greenies, surfers, skaters, emos, Ls, Gs, Bs Ts, Qs, +s, … music, fashion, religion, media have all splintered into sub-cultures and new genres.

I learned from my father how to change the spark plugs in my car. He learned from his great grandfather how to shoe a horse. That was the power of intergenerational learning.

But have you (or your grandfather, or great grandfather) taught your kids how to make a Tik Tok, deal with a troll, ghost an epic fail Bumble hook-up or manage extreme social anxiety? Nah. Almost certainly, ‘nah’.

Because they already know more than you about ‘that stuff’ and, well, forget grandad, he’s still changing his own spark plugs.

The world is just changing too fast for the last generation to be able to pass on useful advice to the next.

Now I can’t even find the spark plugs in my car (the dealership says don’t bother opening the bonnet other than to add wiper fluid) and when I go EV, there won’t even be spark plugs to find. As for shoeing my horse, well that’s seriously not a biggie for me nowadays.

Which does make me wonder, “will it all end up coming to a grinding halt, the way an ice age turned back the clock (so to speak) for previous civilisations?”

I recently heard an expert suggest the answer to stopping students using ChatGPT for exam and essay assignments is to go back to requiring hand-written content.

There is no better illustration of the speed of change than the uptake of the ChatGPT.

And no better illustration of the inadequacy of our ‘last-generation’ response to its misuse than the recommendation that we go back to pen and paper.

I wish I had a better solution. I don’t. Sorry.

Maybe it’s time we all took my grandfather’s advice – he was always adamant there was nothing a cold shower and a hard day’s work wouldn’t fix.

Then again, the world has changed since his day.

Related: I hear there’s a new app called Sense of Humour – maybe you should download it?

Alan Neben
Alan Neben
Alan Neben is a Mount Maunganui local and experienced New Zealand publisher. His columns provide a light-hearted perspective on social changes effecting New Zealanders

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