Friday, April 6, 2012

A Generation of Internet Shut-Ins?

Joan Lowy just filed an Associated Press report based on the following observation:

The share of people in their teens, 20s and 30s with driver's licenses has dropped significantly over the past three decades, not only the United States, but also in some other wealthy nations with a high proportion of Internet users, transportation researchers have found.

The hypothesis she explores by way of explanation has to do with that “high proportion of Internet users” factor.  As she puts it:

Virtual contact through the Internet and other electronic means is reducing the need for face-to-face visits among young people, researchers say.

Those who still have an interest in literature may recognize the literary implications of this proposition.  It means that the world envisaged by E. M. Forster's short story “The Machine Stops,” may be emerging as a reality.  That story, of course, is a cautionary tale about the helplessness that ensues in a society of shut-ins dependent on some “master technology” to satisfy all of their needs.  As you might guess, it does not have a happy ending.

When  I saw the headline for Lowy’s story, I figured that a new generation had emerged that preferred walking and public transportation to gas-guzzling automobiles;  silly me.

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