Better technology does not mean greater wisdom
Better, faster, higher.
The delights of the modern world just keep improving, don’t they? From food and clothing to technology and entertainment, our choices get ever greater, accessibility gets easier and affordability is more achievable.
Disposable fashion, microwave meals, convenience stores, smartphones. Where would we be without them?
Surely only the clueless or the catatonic would hanker after the old days or the old ways?
Recently I spent some time in the company of a likeable 17-year-old who was thoughtful, polite, clever and conversational; a teenager to convince you that even our young people are getting better.
He told me how much he was looking for to the next instalment of the Star Wars movie franchise. Then he told me how he’d started re-watching the previous six movies to prepare himself.
Yet there was a big, ugly hair in his bowl of cherry ice cream.
Episode four of the franchise simply wasn’t up to snuff. Too slow, too boring and free from the quality of high-octane action he’d come to expect from episodes one, two and three.
“Nothing much really happens,” he lamented.
It took me a minute or two to remember that episode four was actually the first of Star Wars movies to be made; the one which introduced the world to Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader et al.
Its release in 1977 was culturally and socially a genuine, Richter-scale game changer.
But to this smart and amenable young man the plot trundled, the lightsaber battles were painfully slow and the entire movie seemed pedestrian.
Yet none of the subsequent Star Wars movies – for all their advanced special effects, gymnastic fight scenes and accompanying hype – ever matched the earnings of the original.
Here’s what Wikipedia says:
“When adjusted for inflation as of 2013, Star Wars is the second highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada, and the third highest-grossing film in the world. It received 10 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture), winning six; it is often regarded as one of the best films of all time.”
Which means it’s not only about the money. None of the subsequent movies came even remotely close in terms of global cultural impact.
What this tells me is that smart people – whatever age – are always worth speaking with and listening to. But there is a world of difference between “smart” and “wise”.
Even smart people can be distracted because there is always something shinier, flashier and louder to catch your eye and to stake a claim for your attention.
In my sphere, the world of PR and communications, attention has been diverted from old-fashioned media relations by the newer, faster attractions of blogging, Twitter, Facebook, content marketing, native advertising and whatever else new comes along.
All of these platforms are valuable and worthwhile. But I’ve given up despairing over the flitterbits who leap from one to the other looking for a new fix of ‘shiny’.
It’s easy to forget is that PR and media relations have been around for 100 years – a business service worth billions across the globe with almost a century of proven value.
We don’t even know if Facebook or Twitter will still be around a decade from now.
Better, faster, higher doesn’t necessarily mean wiser.
It takes wisdom to look beyond the moment, see past the hype, think further than the distraction. And to know that fads fade fast, but that style and quality last and last.