Eternal newbies but instant experts

Have you ever felt like you are living life in the fast lane and slow lane at the exact same time? It seems to me that my short perspective is getting ever shorter and that makes the fact that my longer perspective isn’t moving increasingly hard to adjust for.

Man inspecting a part in a lab
Michael Björn

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

My internet use is causing this, and software changes are faster than I seem to be able to blink.

Once I have just figured out how to use an app, its unrelenting and constant updates change all the buttons around, add new functionality or just redesign everything so that I cannot recognize what I am looking for even when I’m staring at it.

It is as if the software houses really try to make me feel old. I still have not gotten used to icons as opposed to good old text menus in Microsoft Word, for example.

This is why one of the Ericsson ConsumerLab 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2018 is called Eternal Newbies. As many as 30 percent of respondents told us that new technology makes it impossible for them to keep their skills up to date. Feeling like a total noob even when performing everyday routine tasks such as writing this text in my word processor is an experience shared by many.

But this is not a necessarily bad thing. As many as 46 percent of the respondents we surveyed also said the internet allows them to learn and forget skills at a faster pace than ever before.

Graph showing that 46 percent saying the internet allows them to learn and forget skills at a faster pace than ever before.
And while new technology changes may make it seem like we are destined to be eternal newbies, we are also becoming what the Urban Dictionary defines as instant experts: Someone who looks up a word or a fact on a search engine, such as {Google}, looks at a few articles or definitions, mostly on {Wikipedia}, and decides they now know everything about it.

In fact, almost half of the respondents in our survey said they often just search the internet for how to do things, because they have either forgotten or because there is a new way to do things anyway.

Obviously, I use YouTube to tie my necktie on the rare occasion that I wear one; to be my own electric unicycle flat tire repair man; and to build my own computers although I am all thumbs. Furthermore, looking at walk-throughs when I get stuck in a computer game has become second nature.

Like everyone else, I google what music to play and what pizza to buy; and I pick up the pizza using navigation in my phone. So, I’ve got instant music taste, I know what tastes best and can find any place quicker than a pro orienteering runner.

The blogs that I write are often the result of stumbling around in Wikipedia and googling things I chance upon there. I am an expert on everything. Honestly!

I don’t really worry about the fragmentation of everything into five-second chunks of knowledge or the need to change the word “reading” to “long reading” for any text with a read time above two minutes. But when this lifestyle crashes head-on into the slow-changing society that I am still very much a part of, I get concerned.

It is not only that my own life is very much a product of a society that has a long-term perspective, I am also trying to nudge my son onto that same path. I am influencing him to spend around two decades in school, in order to learn something very specialized that lands him a job that is stable and lasts him a lifetime.

But what if I am fooling him into a cul-de-sac where the stuff he learns loses its relevance quicker than his teachers manage to give him course credits? And what if professions themselves become less important, and flexibility becomes the catch-all skill for employability?

There is a fundamental discrepancy between ever-shorter daily life experiences and the long-form society we live in. This will definitely change society in some fundamental way, but I am not sure how. Do you have an idea?

Find out more insights from Ericsson ConsumerLab’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2018 here, and let us know how you think consumers becoming instant experts will impact the overall pace of change in society.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Michael Björn
Michael Björn is Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab at Ericsson ConsumerLab and has a PhD in data modeling from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
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