Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I witnessed two generation gaps in my lifetime: the famous one that made a mess of the 60s, and the computer generation gap that rendered half of the skilled oldsters unemployable. These were traumatic events and I never expected to see their like again in my lifetime, but now I'm not so sure. I look into the turbulent mist of my crystal ball, and I see the glimmer of one more gap: the gap between babies being born now, and their Gen Y/Millennial Generation parents. Let me explain.

People now in their twenties grew up with computers. They're not strong on traditional knowledge, but they do know the current programs, and these days that's the key to getting jobs. You've gotta give it to them, they spent the time and effort necessary to learn some pretty esoteric stuff.

And I do mean esoteric. My how-to-learn Photoshop book is 776 pages long, and most of it is dry as moth wings. I grant you that nobody's expected to know everything that's in the book, but you have to know the relevant parts of several programs, and it all adds up.

For an artist in the animation industry, you should know parts of Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, After Effects and Toon Boom or Maya, and it wouldn't hurt to know a bit of Final Cut, Painter and a host of plug-ins. That's a big investment of time, especially when you consider that you're also expected to know how to draw, color, animate, tell stories, act characters and make cinematic cuts as well.

And that's not all. If you want to get a feel for the intuitive work-arounds that make programs usable then you better spend a certain amount of time playing online games, doing Facebook, file-sharing, resume and web site creation, iTunes, iPhone, Garageband, Word, office networking, digital camera stuff, et al. Whew! I get tired just thinking about it!

The point I'm trying to make is that if you're 20 something then spending a LOT of time with programs is mandatory. If you're a student there's no time for English lit, economics, history, culture, story telling, cartooning and all that. Culture for you is watching The Comedy Channel, if you can find time for it.

Now comes the part about the generation gap. The Millennials and Gen y'ers who are so steeped in program manipulation are going to be in for a big surprise because their kids won't have any desire to learn programs at all. Babies being born now won't need to learn programs. They'll simply tell the computer what they want in vernacular English and the computer will do it. Do you doubt it? Think about it....

Think about the Wulfram (spelled right?) vernacular browser that's on the drawing table now, or all the language recognition and fuzzy logic improvements you've been hearing about. Think about the nano processors people are working on. THAT'S the world your kid is going to grow up in! People will still generate and manipulate programs, but that'll be a niche activity, something only specialists do.

I envision an artist in 2025 making a picture (maybe holographic or virtual) like this: "Computer, give me a cottage like the one in Disney's 'Snow White, ' only give it more of an old master look. Yeah, something like what you just put up only with more contemporary color...and change the shutters to something more flamboyant. No, not that...try a few skewered old Swiss designs. And how 'bout a thatched roof? No, a thicker one. The thatch should look like it was just put on..." It'll all work something like HAL worked in the Kubrick movie. You won't need to know the programs, that's what the computer'll be for.

For your kids generation the content of media will be the big deal, not the process. Where will their parents fit in? Well.....they won't. They really won't. Parents will have spent their entire youth learning programs, and that way of thinking will be completely obsolete, at the consumer level anyway. Unlike their parents, kids will be romantic and literary. They'll ransack history for ideas and inspiration. They'll regard their parents as stupid. God help us, they'll have more in common with their hippie grandparents, if any are still around.


The Jerk said...

i think we're already reaching that point to a degree. i remember 12 years ago people needed video demos to learn how to click-and-drag or copy-paste. now all the little kids i know understand these kinds of concepts almost instinctively.

And the kids who are just getting into college (at least those I know) are increasingly tech-savvy to the point of boredom with mere technological advances and are seeking the content rather than merely trying to understand the medium the content is transmitted by. Many of these near-adults are literary, romantic, or at least intellectual. With the right guidance they could learn to develop their artistic aptitude, but who's gonna teach them? Maybe they'll have to re-invent & rediscover art and literary techniques, but i think the technical advances of those in the programming-savvy generation before them will have made it easier to access the work of the masterpieces that came before. old movies and tv are more and more easy to find thanks to the internet. Same with literature and traditional art. libraries have become increasingly connected across the country so that a person in one library can search the content of all the others in the rest of the state via computer and get inter-library loans shipped to where they can access. there are also online collection of old lit and art that may not reveal the nuances that one gets in person, but at least give a general exposure to a wide range of influences.
I am hopeful for what this new generation will be able to create with the new tools their forbears have given them to work with. the technical problems of a masterpiece like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs could be theoretically solved by a handful of people working with digital tools, we only lack the creativity of the original masters, and i think maybe, just maybe, the next generation may have it in them.

Anonymous said...

Good point Eddie. The ever-expanding software learning curve hit me 20 years ago as a graphic designer, when I decided i didn't want to spend 10+ hours a day chained to a Mac. I changed my focus to writing and producing. I need to know what all the programs you mentioned do, but I don't have to know how to do it myself. Instead, I get to tell artists and designers what to do!

Scale said...

That's quite an insughtful post. Back when I looked for 3D graphics courses I was baffled to discover that current specializations revolve around knowing a small subset of the menus of a single 3D program like Maya. You become an expert shader, or an expert rigger, etc. It feels oddly limiting, to me at least.

I guess painting went through a similar stage back in the Renaissance, when making a large painting required so many different skills and hard-to-use tools that they could not all be controlled by a single person at the same time. It's very likely that computers will lead to the next change, where a single person will be able to control most aspects of animation and computer graphics at the same time. It's going to be an interesting change.

(Being a software developer I understand the other side of the problem too. Software design is still at its beginning, there's not yet enough knowledge of how to make software "smart", especially immensely complex software like Photoshop or Maya.)

Craig said...

Great, prescient post, Nostradamos. What I don't get is at the end you say you want God's help because the next gen of kids will "ransack history for ideas and inspiration" like their hippie grandparents, and that's worse than taking after their stupid parents? Huh? You know, back then, doing things that didn't have a name yet might've actually cracked open the Window Of Maybe and let in new light that is just now be reaching it's destination. Thank God.

Joel Brinkerhoff said...

Yes, I understand where you're coming from. My daughter uses Dragon Naturally Speaking to write with and consults the internet for any information she may need. But, the haze of my crystal ball shows me these tools may vanish. Hugh power shortages render technology useless and is reserved for government only. Pencils and paints reappear bringing back artistry and skill. Life returns to a 1940's quality. Or not.

Kris said...

Interesting theory, Eddie. I'm no so sure that will happen so soon, though. Computers are beginning to actually approach the point where it is getting tough to make them smaller and more powerful (we are eventually limited in that venue by the size of atoms). And we do not have anywhere near the kind of computing power now to do that fuzzy logic stuff with reliable speed and accuracy on home computers. It's a hard problem.

I don't doubt we'll continue to make innovations in computers, but I'm not sure we'll ever get completely rid of the user's need to interact in a specific way with programs (artists, writers and other creative types want specific control over their creations). And I think that, for many programs, perhaps the actual computing will eventually be shifted to huge server farms while more computer users just have dummy netbook-like workstations.

buzz said...

I have a friend who works in the video game industry, way out on the cutting edge, and he tells me his son and daughter (he's 12, she's younger) just blow him out of the water when it comes to instinctively knowing how to use computers and technology. They're what are being referred to as "digital natives" and the best their parents can do is watch in awe.

I've seen a similar gap between myself and my wife and aunt re computers and other electronic devices. I've spent much of my adult life communicating with electronics; I tend to figure things out by just pushing the buttons. However, while my wife works with computers, she uses them almost exclusively for numbers crunching; she's very tentative when it comes to using the Internet and if she hits the wrong button on the TV she needs me to straighten it out. My aunt is even more distanced, as you can well imagine.

Anonymous said...

Smartest cats on this spinning orb are the Amish. Rest of the people are too busy playing MafiaWars on Facebook to burnish their skillset with a shovel.

Austin Papageorge said...

This makes for an interesting corollary, but I don't think think it will come about.:

"Computer, give me a cottage like the one in Disney's 'Snow White..."

1. I don't think technology will be that advanced 15 years from now.

2. Even if technology was that advanced, people would be too wary of it to use it.

"Unlike their parents, kids will be romantic and literary. They'll ransack history for ideas and inspiration."

and finally

3. If technology was as advanced as you expect it to be, you couldn't possibly expect a yougster to abandon the fun avenues it creates (like video games or CGI movies) for some boring old book.

Of course, I'm a completely non-technical, literary, romantic teenager living in the new millennium, so what do I know?

Austin Papageorge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zoran Taylor said...

I think Joel and Kris' points here are interesting - We are all somewhat naive in believing that software won't ever follow the trend set by every other innovation of going through a process of DE-evolution or collapse. There must eventually come a point where the challenges set by the economic collapse of last year - let's not kid ourselves, the shockwaves of that moment WILL reverberate down the ages in ways we can't possibly commit to predicting just yet - are going to hurt our buying power even as wealthy individuals, and the acceleration of technology will spark a huge outbreak of paranoia at a political level over the power of the individual. There may come a time when being a part of a very rarefied and Important profession will be a prerequisite to owning a personal computer. That too will pass, but it may take a small eternity.

Now, that might sound crazy, but consider this - if you told a kid of today that they could broadcast their own radio station from inside their own house, they would laugh at you and say, "who needs that when we have podcasts?" They are correct. However, one would assume that the "radio stage" of that particular evolution either never existed or directly preceded the invention of the podcast, given that it predicted such an innovation, right? I mean, it's not like there would be a completely ridiculous gap of about eighty years where all we could do was talk about the good old days when you could do that stuff and wait for a new technology to make it possible again?

Well, actually.....

talkingtj said...

me born 65-me not like tech-tech-crapology-me say homan race devolving-not smarter-dumber.rely on too much on crapology-instinct got us here-instinct keep us moving ahead-machine not have instinct-machine not creative thinker-me am!me say hook you self into machine like matrix movie-me not follow-when machine break down-me waiting with large stick -beat you head in! har har har!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Craig: I didn't mean that ransacking history for ideas and inspiration is a bad thing. Just the opposite: it's a good thing, and I wish this generation would do it.

To put it mildly, I'm not a fan of the hippie generation. I associate them with anti-intellectualism, erosion of the work ethic, the proliferation of addictive drugs...well, it would be a long list. I don't resent individual hippies, though. Some of them were really nice people...and they did read, which is one of the reasons I thought the next generation would have some affinity for them.

Scale: Interesting comment! It seems to me that even complicated programs like the present version of Photoshop could be made more user friendly. The management of Adobe simply lacks the will to do it, maybe because of the way the patent laws are set up.

I have to run now, but I'll try to come back to this subject later.

Brubaker said...

Being the youngest in the family, I'm strangely fascinated by how older technologies worked. I'm more interested in reading about, say, how cel-painted cartoons were made than digitally-colored ones (although reading about those still fascinates me, too). Same can be said for records, films (I collect cartoons on 16mm), and other things.

I do still try out newer things. I'm experimenting with ToonBoom for example (I will tell you that it's much more hand drawn animation-friendly than Flash).

I think the reason is because, if I want to try out newer technologies, I first want to learn how the older stuff worked and see what changed and what remains the same.

Doug Handler said...

I think you're right on this. Nature's revenge.

RooniMan said...

It's so mind boggling!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Austin: i didn't mean to say that the 2025 generation will get their knowledge of history and stories from books, just that they'll be very interested in history and stories just like the book readers used to be.

But as long as we're on the subject of books, did you mean it when you said that books are boring? Actually, an awful lot of books ARE boring, but so are an awful lot of movies and video games. You just have to find the right books.

It's faster and more fun to get ideas from films, but films are expensive to make, and the ideas have to be simplistic. If you rely on films for your idas then the only ideas you'll ever be exposed to are the ones near and dear to agents and Hollywood executives, things like: "Cruelity is bad," and "It feels good to hit bad guys."

FriedMilk said...

There already appears to be a rejection of perfect, smooth, Photoshoppy looking art going on. It's trendy nowadays to use naive, almost childish illustrations on websites or as band or t-shirt logos: designs made to look as if done in marker, on torn paper, deliberately uneven lettering, messy paint, neon colors, etc.

Austin Papageorge said...

Eddie: I used the term "Boring Old Book" ironically. I said that to reflect on how the next generation will view them.

I actually love books. Hell, I even tried reading War and Peace.

Austin Papageorge said...

Also Eddie, if the next generation is not interested in knowledge in the printed form, what makes you think they will be interested in them in the electronic form?

I mean, you talk about programming language and how everybody in gen x and on is into it, but I really do not get that impression when I interact with people my age.

The kids of 2025 will be just as literary and histsorically inclined as the current ones, maybe even less so.

Austin Papageorge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Interesting post, Uncle Eddie.

I'm not sure if we're quite ready for what you're saying regarding technology, but I do see changes in technology that will impact what we know and what the Generation After Millenials (GAMs) will take for granted, and some of those changes are happening now.

I do see the "death" of the following thanks to changing technology:
- Typing: Biometric scans, voice recognition, and touch screens are getting better and better, and people are doing more "point, click, and shoot" when running applications.
- Newspapers, periodicals and future printed books: Mobile devices are also getting better, and broadband and wireless networks are getting faster and more affordable. We're starting to see that now with major newspapers and magazines going out of business or changing their media delivery.
- Radio and Television: As some of the others have mentioned, this is already happening. Thanks to the faster and more affordable equiment and networks, people are making their own shows on YouTube, BlogTalkRadio, and other Internet media outlets. I can see television and radio stations completely switching to broadcasting on the 'net instead of the current media they're using during the GAMs' period.
- Movie theaters: Thanks to digital technology, movies released in the theater are available within two months after theater release in DVD or On Demand. People will think - why the bleep should I get dressed up, use the gas in my car, spend $10+ USD to see a film in a theater full of noise when I can wait for 2 months and see the film for $3.99 in the comfort of my own home? Technology and economics will change it to where the films are released immediately to the On Demand services.

Like FriedMilk mentioned, I do see a new "anti-perfect" art movement in the next generation, where anarchic and messy will be considered the style. Like you and others have mentioned, I, too, see a growth and appreciation of "retro" in the art and fashion movement. I think that the GAMs will rebel against the aesthetic perfection that technology can supply.

The millenials (aka Generation Y) are returning to conservation and thrift attitude that the "greatest generation" (those who experienced WWII and the Great Depression) had because of what they experienced during the "Great Recession", but I think that the economy will dramatically improve for the GAMs and they will return to the boom, grow and spend mentality of the Baby Boomers. On the flip side, I do see the GAMs experiencing even more competition and even less opportunity in the workplace. Unlike the previous generations, Generation X and the millenials understand the need to continue learning or be left in the dust. They're not going to be like the 70-year-old woman in 1950 yelling in the phone because the call is long distance. The Gen Xers and the millenials will be just as technically savvy as the GAMs, but unlike the GAMs, the Gen Xers and, to an extent, the millenials, weren't "spoiled" (for a lack of a better word) by technology, so they'll have the additional skills that the GAMs won't have or will lose, which will give them an edge over the GAMs in the marketplace.

Although the GAMs will be more technically savvy, I think that they'll become less educated because of the technology. The GAMs "written" communication will suffer thanks to the instant messaging and texting, and some of their problem solving and analytical abilities will suffer thanks to computers being able to get them the answer in a New York minute.

I apologize for hijacking your post with this long comment. Don't hit me with a wet spaghetti noodle. :D

lastangelman said...

Everything you desrcibed I wanted to happen twenty years ago. I can't wait for that stuff to happen. Heck, computers are already anticipating our needs. If you go shopping on Amazon or other sites regularly, it makes suggestions you might be interested in buying. By the time i'm in my nineties, automation, and A.I. will be taking care of a lot of stuff - even programming! There'll still be very few humans who will actually know how to delve into the software if something needs modding that the new robots can't anticipate or figure out for themselves. Creative tools and the process will be divided into three camps at least: traditionals or romantics, new technologists and the pragmatists. The trads will embrace old ways of creativity and reject the "easy" oral command technology, they'll be very tactile people. New technologists will be au courant, using every new tech out there to create, only limited by their imaginations, often laughing at and be confused by the trads approach. The prags will appreciate both worlds, and be knowledgeable and imaginative enough to use tools and approaches from either camp to get job done or fulfill creative vision.

NateBear said...

This reminds me of the sculptor segment of the movie Robot Stories ( )that deals directly with the same generational gap. The conflict, for those haven't seen it, is between an old sculptor and his son. The sculptor's body is withering at the end of his life and can barely complete projects. His soon is trying to convince him to download his mind to a computer where he can simply dream up the the 3=D models of the sculptures, and deliver them to the client promptly.

The elderly artist's objection is that his creativity is derived through direct interaction with solid matter, the natural clay that he prefers to work with. He feels the art would be meaningless without the struggle, the push and pull of interacting with with materials that have some ill of their own.

So there is something o be said for there being challenges in creation, and reaction to your mediums natural tendency. But then every artwork is product of its time, it's creator and it's medium. Perhaps these instant, mind-reading artworks can only be accurately judged within the context in which they exist. The exciting part about the intersection of technology and art since the being of time has generally been in the lifting the limits on how much of our imagination we can actualize. Makign images closer to our dreams.

But then there is the Fluxus school of thought. Technological advances also bring about expanded possibilities for randomization. We also so computers left to generate more "random" art on their own occuring parallel to highly human-driven precise art.

talkingtj said...

there is some hope out there for the next generation, while no one was looking sales for vinyl recordings(actual albums)rose 37% this year. the trend toward retro is already underway. the only reason why technology is moving so rapidly is because the world is so corporatized. technology allows corporations to put out more product quicker and easier, further eroding the workforce resulting in even greater profits.pretty soon,probably in the next 2 years we will see more young people involved in underground activities such as album listening parties, book reading groups,anti tech gatherings, all in a attempt to avoid an increasingly post human society.i have made my prediction, based mostly on facts, the future awaits,do not be afraid.

david gemmill said...

you know what this means!! cool cartoony animation and cartoons will be even more scarce....

WHICH MEANS, that whichever group carries on the tradition(wink wink) will be viewed as pioneers because they are resurrecting an obsolete medium that no one else is capable of doing, especially not kids who never had an urge to pick up a pencil and draw because they're too busy on their iphones.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jennifer, Jerk, Scale, Kris,Austin, Zoran, Loel. Anon, Talking, Austin, fried, Nate: Holy Cow! Interesting predictions! I agree with most of them, but since it's more fun to focus on disagreement, I'll just say that I'm a little skeptical that the next generation will find themselves at what they perceive is a disadvantage, and skeptical also about technology stalling at near (or sort of near) the present level, the economic crisis not withstanding.

I apologize for what must be a frustratingly short answer. With family and friends coming to stay at my place over the holidays (and all the house cleaning that entails), and with last-minute Christmas shopping to fret over, I've got a lot of offline work to do. Boy, Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but it sure is a bear to get through!

I hope you guys, and the commenters not mentioned in the paragraph above, are having a great holiday so far. I got into the spirit late this year, and in an attempt to jump start it I just bought a tree that's too big and too expensive. it's working like a charm. I know I'll hardly be able to move in the tree's part of the living room, but I find myself compulsively singing Christmas songs, and that's a good sign!

Mr. Trombley said...

Dear Sir,

Call me a primitive screwhead, but I don't see type disappearing soon. The spoken word is a completely different medium than the written word. It is more semantically rich, less precise.

For one example of this difference, it is impossible for the written word to be monotone. I challenge you to write a sentence that forces monotonicity on the reader.

And when it comes to syntax, the speech is infinitely inferior to writing.

About your prediction, I am reminded of the words of Raymond Scott:

"Perhaps within the next hundred years, science will perfect a process of thought transference from composer to listener. The composer will sit alone on the concert stage and merely 'think' his idealized conception of his music. Instead of recordings of actual music sound, recordings will carry the brainwaves of the composer directly to the mind of the listener."

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Mr.: The written word may be more precise, but it takes a whole lot longer to express a thought that way. A fast computer that could interpret vernacular speech could quickly put up several "Is this what you meant" -type possibilities, and you could chose among them and modify them with more speech, coupled with touch screen-type moves.

Talking about speech, I'm a big believer in more speech and less writing in school curriculums. Live speech is better remembered than the written word, and lends itself equally to beauty of expression. i have to admit though, that the written word is better for math or archival retreival.

In the wrong hands a mostly spoken curriculum would result in dumbed-down courses, but in the right hands it might produce sharp thinkers who could think fast on their feet.

nothing said...

"Jennifer, Jerk, Scale, Kris,AUSTIN, Zoran, Loel. Anon, Talking, AUSTIN, fried, Nate"
(Emphasis mine)

Thank's Eddie!

Did you mean to write my name twice?

Because I assure you there is only one Austin who commented on this post, despite what the view counts on the profiles say. (Unless there is some anonymous commenter whose name is that.)

Austin Papageorge said...

Also, "nothing" is me.

Matthew Cruickshank said...

Jesus Eddie I just bought Photoshop 2 -should I even bother unwrapping it? It seems redundant now. sigh. On a positive not eI can use the 1200 page manual to stand on and reach places I've never reached before.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Matt: Photoshop 2....You're lucky! I saw a manual for it and it looked a lot more user friendly than the later versions.

Nothing: oops! Just a typo!