OPINION

The end of the world as we know it

Let us consider the typical day of a teenager in Greece. He (or she) downloads some songs from the Internet for his iPod and and some videos to watch on his computer. He might buy some books from Amazon and sell some old comics on eBay. He might check out the headlines on news websites, upload some of his own music or homemade videos onto MySpace, chat with friends on an Internet messenger service and exchange views on a range of issues in online chat rooms. And what about this teenager’s parents? If they are going to buy CDs, they will probably do so from a music store or a Nigerian street trader. If they are going to watch a film, they will queue to watch it at their local cinema, which they have probably been visiting for years. For their news, they buy daily papers and watch the 8 p.m. bulletin on television. Most buy their books from bookstores. In view of the limited penetration of the Internet among older adults in Greece, they are unlikely to exchange e-mails with friends and will probably have only rudimentary knowledge of our new digital culture. So what is the significance of all this? In a word, never before in our postwar world has the generation gap between children and their parents been so wide. Never before have lifestyles and everyday habits been so at odds with each other. Never have there been such extreme differences within the same household. The unprecedented rapidity of the changes that we are witnessing today, at the dawn of the 21st century, the lightning transition to the digital world, is a unique, exciting episode in the history of mankind in which we are all both protagonists and spectators. Those of us who are aged over 20, who witnessed the «pre-digital» age, those who have the experience, enjoy the advantage of adapting. Why advantage? Because the past few years have seen the dawn of a world that can make our everyday life easier and richer. Thanks to the Internet, millions of elderly American, British and Japanese are living more satisfactory lives compared to their Greek counterparts, most of whom are doomed to electronic illiteracy for the rest of their lives. And this is just one example. Many different social groups have made spectacular improvements to their lives simply because they now have access to tools which they never had before. The demonization of the Internet and its misleading association with a few isolated, unsavory manifestations (chiefly child pornography) is dangerous as well as ridiculous. It is like denying the usefulness of a car because of the possibility of road accidents.