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Gone and Forgotten

Gone and Forgotten

Technology is also having an impact on memory and the skills we retain and discard. I often marvel at those funny old guys who pop up on the ABC's The Inventors show with their array of wild, whacky and often pure-genius creations that could make the world a better place.

They are from a generation who loves their shed, not their computer. They learned their tactile skills 40 or 50 years ago from their father, an uncle, a kindly neighbour or during an apprenticeship when such things were more than cheap labour; not via online learning software thrust down a network pipe in the name of corporate education.

I wonder whether my generation or the ones following it will be able to sustain a show like The Inventors. I doubt it. The next generations are, and will be, different. Technology will have been a fundamental influence. The lack of need to use their memory for phone numbers, birthdays, PINs and so on does not enter their head. These are the individuals of the so-called New Economic Order.

A lot of them do not even care to know the time of day. If you wander through a university campus, you might notice an amazing number of students don't wear watches. At home, my eldest son cannot be persuaded to keep his Swatch Watch birthday present on his wrist for more than a couple of hours.

If you come across young, bright knowledge workers - especially those in youthful media and advertising companies, it is very possible they have rejected the normal executive adornment of an expensive Swiss watch advertised by a racing driver. The reason is simple: they don't care what the time is. They are more concerned with what they are doing with their time right now, not how fast it is ticking by. An interesting philosophy.

They also do not care to remember mindless facts and figures that can be stored on a mobile phone. And when Google can find you the finest stanzas of Wordsworth or the wonderful prose of TS Eliot in 0.07 seconds, who needs to commit them to memory?

Closer to home in your IT department, the same trends are emerging. In the coming five years, the need to remember how to code will diminish, too. Business process modelling tools will do to programming what HotDog (remember them?) and Microsoft's FrontPage did to hard HTML coding in the mid-90s.

Emerging process modelling tools in the hands of business leaders will do more to align business and IT objectives by 2010 than the evolution of IT specialists' business competence over the same period. Inevitably, the skills of coding will diminish as these new tools create yet another point-and-click environment.

Could it be that eventually these skills will be gone and forgotten? I see no reason why not. But the nature of humanity is to cast aside the old and embrace the new.

Perhaps it is more important to focus on what we will remember in the future than what we have forgotten from our past. That's pretty deep for the last sentence of an IT magazine - remember, you read it here!

Mark Hollands is a vice-president at the research and consulting organization Gartner

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