The Mobile Phone As The Security Blanket Of A New Generation
By Mike Masnick, Mon Oct 11 22:15:00 GMT 2004

While most people find it useful to have access to people and information anywhere at any time, some are starting to worry that mobile phones are making people increasingly less self-reliant. Are we becoming the undecided generation?

Years ago, there was a huge debate over whether or not calculators should be allowed in schools. Some were afraid that once children learned math by calculator, they would never be able to do actual calculations on their own any more. While some may be a bit slower on instant answers concerning the multiplication tables, people at least know how to solve mathematical problems with tools that are usually easy to access.

It looks like we may be facing a similar situation with mobile phones. While most people are happy that mobile phones give them easy access to people and information where ever they go, some are worried that it's making people less self-reliant. Instead of just deciding what color sweater to buy, people may call up a friend, or take a cameraphone snapshot of the sweater to ask someone their thoughts first. Instead of learning to change a tire, people know they have a service like AAA, and can call for help in an emergency.

While there certainly are some cases where it goes a bit too far -- such as when people go hiking unprepared with just a mobile phone to call for help when they get stranded -- for the most part, it's hard to complain about giving someone access to more information and help when necessary. The real issue isn't about mobile phones causing indecisiveness, but a realization that people increasingly need to learn to deal with information overload. Many of those brought up in the "mobile generation" seem to already have the issue under control. They're used to multitasking, bringing in information from all over the place at all times and then doing what they need to do.

It's just those of us who are "immigrants" to the always on world who need to adjust our thinking and perceptions about dealing with the fire hose of information always being on. However, history has shown, repeatedly, that those who have better information tend to make better decisions -- even if that information is just your friend's opinion on what color sweater looks better on you.