The rise of the technological underclasses


This week I’m experimenting with working from home. I’ve only done it a couple of times before, mostly because I have three children who bounce off the walls during the holidays. In our 2.5 bedroom semi, there isn’t an east wing for me to retire to, away from the din.

To try and find some quiet space, I’ve had to buy a wireless LAN router so that I can take my laptop upstairs. Now this proved to be a very simple replacement for my previous router and the setup wizard worked a treat, making the configuration a matter of 30 seconds. The trouble is though that not all IT stuff works this well, and that set me wondering about those people who struggle with the technology. Of course there must be some folk who simply don’t have a computer at home at all, either because they can’t afford to, or who just don’t see the point, or are just too damn scared to dabble in what they see as black arts!

Is it possible that some families will go for generations without sight of a computer at home? Will these people get sufficient exposure to computers at work to stay in the IT race, or will a whole technological underclass evolve who have no propensity or will to engage with all the electronic gadetry we seem to depend on so heavily these days?

Some of us might have difficulty believing that anyone could manage without a mobile phone, without a computer at home, without an MP3 player, without an instant-replay digibox (I don’t have one of these), but actually, I reckon that life does indeed go on without these things. Does it really matter though? What is the downside to not keeping up with the IT Jones’s from nextdoor? Do children grow up in technology-poor houses stand less chance of doing well in life? At the moment, I’d say they’re still safe. They can still catch up. The trouble is though that it’s invasive. The companies we buy these products assume more and more that we have the necessary hardware at home to connect to and that we understand how to use it. Some, obviously work hard to make using these devices simple, but more and more, we’re expected to be able to troubleshoot complex problems. If it continues, it will create a kind of geek-upperclass and the techno-underdogs…won’t it?

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