Last night I mentioned to some colleagues here in Rio that I blog every day. One person at the table, who is in his 20s, looked up my blog on his phone, and then seemed unhappy that two days ago my blog post was very short. Apparently I was not playing by some rule he had formed in his head.
What I think he missed was that the very brevity of that post signaled its importance. To me the death of Robert Evans is enormously significant from a cultural perspective. My hope was that readers would look him up and find out why I had honored his passing.
Yet earlier in the conversation, this same person, who does professional research in VR, drew a blank when I mentioned the Star Trek Holodeck. Someone of his generation, he explained patiently, wouldn’t know about such an out of date cultural reference.
To me the two moments seem related. My extremely short post on Robert Evans was a pointed invitation to do research into an historically important figure in popular culture, a key to understanding how we get to where we are in 2019.
And of course the Star Trek Holodeck was central to the origin of our current interest in Virtual Reality. It was, in a very important sense, one of the tentpole moments in the cultural evolution of VR.
All of which makes me wonder — are the young people in Gen Z completely uninterested in history? If so, how can they hope to understand where they are going, without understanding the path to how we all got here?
Are we entering a time in history where young people will stop paying attention to Shakespeare because he’s just some old dead guy? Will Jane Austen, Amadeus Mozart and Mary Shelley come be considered irrelevant?
Are we becoming culturally stupid?