It’s ridiculous to say no to computers

HOW many years must pass before people adapt to new technology?

My recent experience suggests a large proportion of the population are still scratching their heads over the eight-track cartridge and compact cassette.

They "can't be bothered" with programming their video recorders and generally rail against "new" technology.

Most of the Luddites' opprobrium is levelled against "the computer". This device - which, to be fair, has been present in their offices for only about 30 years - remains largely a mystery to these people.

Anyone under the age of 60 will have experienced computers at work or at home for a good part of, if not all, their lives.

Yet despite this, they continue to behave as though they are recovering from an extremely nasty shock. Befuddled, bewildered and not bothered seems to be the prevailing attitude of a large part of the population.

This is not a condition that afflicts only older members of society. I have seen teenagers displaying all the signs of technophobia. We have all seen these sorry people. Some cling to a perspective that was fashionable, briefly, about 1988 - that computers were for "nerds". Others harbour the strong belief that computers have landed from Mars only this morning and therefore should be treated with suspicion and awe. Amateur sociologists argue that computers are responsible for the breakdown in communication between people, and besides, it distracts them from watching TV.

Why is it that a new joke spreads faster than a bushfire, but our acceptance of computers in the same way we accept a toaster still eludes many of us? In Britain recently, there were news reports about a customer being upbraided for using her smartphone while being served at a supermarket checkout. Of course, the offended checkout operator didn't have any complaints about the computerised scanning system and barcodes that have removed the tedium of typing in every single price, repeatedly, every day.

Anyone under the age of at least 75 should understand the basics of computers and appreciate their use, and be using computers regularly.

If you are in the workforce and cannot use a computer, you are at an enormous disadvantage. Computer literacy should be seen as synonymous with literacy.

Being able to read is not enough in most jobs these days. Being able to use a computer with confidence is, more or less, essential in the vast majority of jobs.

Another form of computer naivety is seen in those who see a computer as an infinite supplier of postcards to send to one's friends.

Their attitude is: life is a holiday and I am going to post messages to all my friends and the world courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and the rest of them.

This oversharing stems in part from not fully understanding the systems they are using. It can, and does, have major career implications.

Three decades after computers began to enter homes and offices, we are still adjusting to their presence. However, it is faintly ridiculous to act as though they don't exist or that they can be resisted.

Jim Bright is professor of career education and development at the Australian Catholic University and a partner at Bright and Associates. Email opinion@jim bright.com. Twitter: @TheFactoryPod.


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