Disparity and consequences: How technology will create an opportunity divide

Technology – particularly the Internet – was hailed as “the great leveler” in the early days, and indeed it many ways it has been.

But I was struck by a comment on someone’s post today, that both of his grandchildren – 4½ and 7½ – were getting iPads in their xmas stockings. “Really?” I thought. Those things are not cheap, and I don’t believe childproof.

But what struck me wasn’t the obvious display of disposable income (shocking to my thoroughly calvinist upbringing lol – still working on that), but that those kids are being handed – handed– the future keys to success: technical aptitude. And what that means is increasingly society will be delineated by the “haves” and “have nots”, since the kids in the “haves” group will have such a clear, relevant advantage.

Now I’m not a social crusader. I get that “life isn’t fair” and that there have always been inequities between the rich and poor, with all the associated privileges, be it access to better food, medicine, investment opportunities, recreation, etc. But it just seems that there’s never been something with quite as much power to create so much disparity. The kids with early access and education using it will thrive in the future, the rest will not.

We need to make sure that the kids in the “have not” group have at least a chance of success in the future where technical savvy is a requirement. Moral obligations aside (I’m not a fan of using morals to make an argument), but from a pragmatic perspective: among the ranks of those underprivileged kids could be the next brilliant programmer, leader, designer who makes life better for us all.

I’m sure all of this has been dicussed and anticipated many times, one of the results being the “One laptop per child” program. But we need to ensure that in the US as well, we provide a system that supports the training and development tools to all the kids in our country. How else are we as a nation going to stay competitive on a global basis?

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One Response to Disparity and consequences: How technology will create an opportunity divide

  1. Tony S says:

    Why ‘one laptop per child’? Sure, I appreciate the arguments, but I think that there are more basic needs in the Maslow heirarchy which should be addressed first. I just see projects like these as vanity gigs for computer manufacturers, who assume that their vision of ‘what is needed’ is the same as everyone else’s (plus it also gives them unbeatable exposure to their products and brands).

    The ‘disparity’ you refer to at the top of the article in fact has a much more serious connotation, which is the contimuing growth in income disparity, not just in the developed world, but also in developing countries … I’m not sure that lack of computer literacy on the part of have-nots is teh cause of this …

    I do find it sad that kids are getting iPads in their stockings, for reasons too numerous to mention. It’s interesting that Shigeru Miyamoto – the inventor of Super Mario and the Wii, among other things – limits his childrens’ access to games, the net etc. Also, the inspiration for all his great succeses came from being able, as a child, to get out and explore his surroundings

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