Always-on technology will impact Generation Y

Technology

There is a good chance young people growing up in today's always-wired world will eventually become bright decision makers- if they don't wind up intellectual lightweights unable to concentrate long enough to chew over a good book.

So say 1,021 technology insiders, critics and students surveyed by the Pew Research Center who were fairly evenly split about how always-on technology will impact the teenagers and twenty-somethings of 'Generation Y.'

In the survey, released on Wednesday, 55 per cent agreed with a statement that in 2020 the brains of young people would be "wired" differently from those over 35, with good results for finding answers quickly and without shortcomings in their mental processes.

But 42 per cent were pessimistic, agreeing with a second statement that in 2020 young technology users would be easily distracted, lack deep thinking skills and thirst only for instant gratification.

"There is this tension going on between the positive and the negative (aspects) that we foresee," said Janna Anderson, an associate professor at North Carolina's Elon University and one of the study's authors.

"Right now a lot of people (in the survey) are responding, 'That's already my life.' They are anticipating this," she said.

The survey's forecasts carry weight since a similar poll taken in the early 1990s accurately predicted conflicts that would arise between online technology and copyrights, privacy and established institutions, Anderson said.

The survey participants gave consistent predictions on the key skills young people would need in 2020. They included public problem-solving through cooperative work, searching effectively for information online and weighing the quality of information.

"In contrast, the ability to read one thing and think hard about it for hours will not be of no consequence, but it will be of far less consequence for most people," Jonathan Grudin, Microsoft Inc's top researcher and one of the survey's respondents, said in comments carried in the Pew report.

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