postheadericon Tech Talk: Scary Statistics

I just read that American kids now spend more time consuming and creating media then they do in school each day, about 8 hours. SMS, Twitter, and hundreds of thousands of apps are consuming that entire generation. Latin, music and the arts are pastimes of the past for Generation Z. Well, at least in that part of the world...

Worldwide, there is an estimated 40 billion video uploads a month to a glom of online video services, with YouTube taking in 20 billion of those shorts. Statistically that implies that every single human being on the planet is uploading a stupid pet trick and a remix of a Justin Bieber hit every month. But for Nepal, I don't see that to be the case. After all, kids here still use pencils and carry books around in backpacks, instead of the latest tablet or MacBook Air.

But that is one of the things about living in country that still processes 35 mm film and sells floor brushes on every sidewalk. (My neighborhood seems to specialize in technology from the Metal Age.) The contrast is so much brighter. For example, instead of living slowly through a fundamental change in society, the expat here can look over the horizon and feel change splashed up like the tides.

But even in Nepal, our own Generation Z is contributing to a tech tsunami: each month 42 million users around the globe spend an average of 26 hours online – more time spent if working a part-time job! So what does it all mean? Instead of "productive work" like flipping burgers or helping Wal-Mart customers find the electronics aisle, are teens now are playing Cityville instead? Hard to say, as I know most of us here would not balk at that type of work.

But what if teens were pushed out of that job market and into an online dystopia by older folks who needed that job? Pretty scary if true, eh? But there is nothing worse than being a disgruntled technologist, pinning for the olden days (as I often do) so let me change the tone of this rant with a statistic that will warm your heart instead of chill your the soul...

The Mobile Learning Blog reports "42% of teens can text blindfolded."

I can now rest knowing that if half the planet were blinded by a sub-space anomaly or "other" explosion, that the younger folks would have still have manual dexterity as a civilization-saving skill. I know that after 30 years of ergonomically incorrect typing, I don't. So hooray - why worry?

The point being that mobile phones are a big part of the change taking place within some parts of our civilization. Consider this: it took 56 years for the telephone to reach 50% of American households, but just 10 years for the internet to get installed in half of all American homes. The mobile has taken just 4 years longer then the Internet to do the same. Even in KTM, I dare you to find a well-dressed kid without some sort of mobile device.

Now what this means to us, precisely, is hard to say, perhaps impossible to say. Imagine what our your great and grandparents thought when the automobile took the world by storm. Could they ever have imagined on "day one" the choking traffic jams on the Bagmati Bridge, or on any other major intersection in the world? No, of course not - just like we can't see now where the Internet and all this twittering, tubing connectivity will lead us... or can we?

Today, 30 to 40% of Internet use is of the "personal interest" variety during working hours. So theoretically, worker productivity of any sort should be down by that much as well. Unless you are media streaming company, however, charged with pumping entertainment all day long onto corporate and home computers. Newspapers, books, magazines and all the hit pop songs have been digitized, and are now consumed 40 hours a week by almost ½ the population of America. And that American body is expanding rapidly - even during a recession.

Since 1990, the average weight for all Americans has risen by 20 lbs. (9 kg). At this rate, in just a few decades the average American male will weigh in at over 300 lbs. (136 kg). Think of the changes needed for that! Already, public toilet fixtures across America are being reinforced to bear higher loads for safety reasons, and the new standard is 1000 lbs., up from 300 – the unreinforced toilets are collapsing daily!

Now if that doesn't scare you, I don't know what does.

First published in MyRepublica on 12/10/2011

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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