A Unit of Analogy

The Vanguard Generation

There is a small but significant group tucked between Generation X and the Millenials. As a member of that generation, it seemed worth pointing us out.

The 20th century may be sharply divided into eras by the chief inventions: the internal combustion engine, nuclear weapons, and the computer network. I could say "computer", just as one could make a case that the middle technology was the television. But it wasn't computer which changed us, it was computers, wired together.

The Vanguard generation, in 2014, are clustered between the ages of 30 and 40. In 1994, we were 10 to 20 years old. Simply put, we remember life without the Internet, but learned it during puberty.

There are plenty of people ten or twenty years older who found the Internet in their all-important adolescence. The university experience in America delays adolescence, with the (usually unrecognized) upside of longer plasticity for learning among the inclined, so there are a few Avant Vanguardists. Reduplication and elision, yay! They do not a generation make.

More importantly, they suffered through the September than Never Ended. Their Internet was not our Internet: we are the Vandals and Visigoths who wrecked their kingdom. Sorry about that. Did I mention we were going through puberty?

The Millenials are fish in water. They have never heard an adult ask another "Do you have email?", only "What's your email address?". And so on, and so forth, for all of it.

In the present, the Baby Boomers rule, and Generation X runs it. Soon, Generation X will rule, and the Vanguard will run it; this is the way of the world.

By that time, our very biological existence will rest on the network. It already does, but we have only begun to reap the harvest of internal combustion and all that it brought. In a very real way, the Internet or its heir will rule us, and that's the optimistic scenario.

To the Vanguard I say this: Keep your memories of the nascent Network. Remember the floppy, and what fits on it. Cherish the freedom of your youth, when, lacking a cell phone, you had to find your friends a terra and your parents had to yell or call around.

More: Understand that our teetering, broken, stringy technology stack was written by Boomers, mostly, and other people who didn't know any better. Charitably, the technology wasn't mature, though the luminaries and prophets of the era would vigorously disagree. We're inheriting it, along with the pride of a lifetime's work; rather than take it behind the barn and shoot it, let's gently put it out to pasture and emulation.