On Becoming Obsolete

Technology comes to mind. That computer which won’t boot up in less than 10-seconds. That car without integrated Bluetooth. 

What about humans?

Last week — during a conference in Indianapolis I attended — someone remarked over dinner how these old men were complaining about the millennials. And how out of touch “they” seemed. How old and curmudgeonly. Fair enough. They were. 

I then asked if he wasn’t giving them the exact same treatment. Particularly when millennials look at the oldest generation as being from another time and place so as to make them irrelevant (in some respects). Were we not giving them the exact same treatment? What makes them any different and will we know when we ourselves have become obsolete?

Can we avoid obsolescence? A computer can be upgraded. A car can be retrofitted. But sometimes it isn’t deemed worthwhile. Is there an analogous workaround for us? Where technology upgrades usually connotes hardware improvements, aren’t we searching for a mental enrichment? I suppose this would need to be the case, otherwise obsolescence would be inherent with age and there’d be nothing for us to do but to force fit a coexistence. 

Obsolescence may not be the most appropriate word. Defined as “out of date and no longer used”, it seems inaccurate that this should describe someone who is reluctant to change, who ceases to educate themselves in order to remain contemporaries, if not in age at least in mindset and mindfulness. Which word then describes this phenomenon?

I do hope to avoid this myself — I write this knowing full well it’s inevitable to a small extent. Moments when I share the distance I keep with Facebook or my skepticism with Snapchat and other so-called social media apps I feel it setting in. For myself I realize it’s enough to know and understand. To appreciate. Avoiding “obsolescence” does not require I adopt everything; just adapt.

Perhaps it’s important to reframe this from the avoidance of “obsolescence” to that of maintaining relevance. In that way, we can find belonging in an ever changing society.

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