The Internet arrived just as I was finishing my undergraduate education at University and already my younger peers, in their 30’s now, were better prepared for the world we exist in today – the Digital Generation.
My generation, the Pre-Internet Baccalaureates, are one of the fastest shrinking groups of humanity: those who received a college degree or university education without the existence of the Internet.
Forever, Pre-Internet Baccalaureates will be the last of what came before, from the slower, quieter, less crowded world sans digital devices and the world wide web. (For the purposes of definition, I propose the Digital Generation begins in 1993, with the standardization of TCP/IP Protocols).
Most of us have, of course, absorbed the Internet and lots of peripheral tech into our education now and we stumble along using the tools given to us by Silicon Valley social engineers in amazing ways with handheld devices a hundred times a day.
Our children and the generations that follow have become guides to absorbing the transition to digital tech.
In 2005, a Japanese mother of two young adults that I interviewed in Narita airport, told me many Japanese actually refer to the children of the digital age as “a new species, Shin Jin-rui” – because of their facility with computers,
a NEW SPECIES.
That interview was one of a series called The First Contact Project.
With the expansion of the digital divide, I propose a Western equivalent of the Japanese phrase, using the Latin taxonomy:
Homo sapiens digitalis
Today, we consider human beings, Homo sapiens sapiens, to be the only living species of the genus Homo.
Wiki tells us that in 2003, scientists defined the 1997 findings of Tim White in Ethiopia of Homo sapiens idaltu as: an extinct subspecies of Homo sapiens that lived almost 160,000 years ago in Pleistocene Africa.
Homo sapiens idaltu was to describe the divide between us and this species that was so similar to us yet went extinct. Idaltu is from the African Saho-Afar language, a word meaning “elder or first born”
So if future generations look upon our disconnected, pre-internet society as backward, naturally, we need defining terminology to describe the divide. The term digitalis has numerous meanings that apply here – from fingers to digital technology – in defining the generations to come as advanced from us.
People using digital technology have fast become a part of almost every career, society, community, corporation and culture and if evolution holds, the inevitable death and transfiguration of homo sapiens sapiens and rise of homo sapiens digitalis, will be total.
Many homo sapiens sapiens will die-off, others will evolve into homo sapiens digitalis.
Anyone can study digital technology and move from sapiens to digitalis, but indeed, we have learned it is easiest if this education is begun at an earlier age … which brings us back to the lonely generation at the end of the previous era: Pre-Internet Baccalaureate.
Among the Pre-Internet Baccalaureate homo sapiens sapiens, we find unusual relationships designed from facility with digital tech during the era of its creation:
– Marriages in which one partner is tech-savvy and the other not so, preferring to yield the tech responsiblity to the other.
– Communal groups in which a single friend is highly skilled – the now famous early adopter – who teaches the others to engage in particular tech.
– Bellweather users who guide others around them – one elder in a retirement community for example who helps others by using the net – in communities where people are uncomfortable with new tech.
The argument that we are not a different species from our children lies squarely on the fact that, obviously, homo sapiens sapiens and digitalis can intermarry and breed, but note that while this is true, it is rare that offspring of such unions remain sapiens sapiens.
And thus is born Homo sapiens digitalis, the final species of the genus Homo.