Are you mesmerized by a generation of post-millennials who figure out their new electronic gadgets faster than you can install child safety settings? Do you think this must be unique to the generation growing up today, also dubbed the digital
natives? Do you think younger generations are more tech savvy because their brains are ‘wired differently”? They might indeed be wired differently, but not in a way that would give them the fortitude of inborn computer science insights.
These digital natives might indeed be figuring out technology faster than you do, but that is because children are more adaptive than adults when faced with novel problems. But this is by virtue of being children, not because they are born into a technologically groundbreaking time period. At least if we believe a new study out of Berkley University. Not only can preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work but, contrary to previously believed, they can also learn abstract cause and effect relationships.
It’s too easy to view this phenomenon through a generational lens, even though we can safely anticipate that Homelanders will use their tech savvy in innovative ways. Especially if they get past the user friendly interfaces of Club Penguin and start going deeper into coding and computer architecture. But kids outsmarting grown-ups with technology is in itself nothing new. When my maternal grandfather was a young boy around the time of World War I, his fascination with radio waves made him build one of the first amateur radios in Norway. The only problem was that he lived at a military fort since his father at the time was serving as Minister of Defense and there was a war going on down on the European continent. My grandfather’s radio hacks could possibly have caused more far reaching consequences than they did, but the older generation of generals and government officials could never figure out why their communications at times was so unstable.
As Jonathan Mugan writes so well about in his book The Curiosity Cycle, which I review here, children’s open ended thinking makes them perfect problem solvers. Children try configurations and possibilities adults won’t even consider and can better view new problems with “fresh eyes”. In that sense they are not only better than adults in complex problem solving, they outsmart computers as well.