Are there any communication technologies that have the potential to sustain the need for childhood?
The only technology that has this capacity is the computer. In order to program a computer, one must, in essence, learn a language. This means that one must have control over complex analytical skills similar to those required of a fully literate person, and for which special training is required. Should it be deemed necessary that everyone must know how computers work, how they impose their special world-view, how they alter our definition of judgment—that is, should it be deemed necessary that there be universal computer literacy —it is conceivable that the schooling of the young will increase in importance and a youth culture different from adult culture might be sustained. But such a development would depend on many different factors. The potential effects of a medium can be rendered impotent by the uses to which the medium is put. For example, radio, by its nature, has the potential to amplify and celebrate the power and poetry of human speech, and there are parts of the world in which radio is used to do this. In America, partly as a result of competition with television, radio has become merely an adjunct of the music industry. And, as a consequence, sustained, articulate, and mature speech is almost entirely absent from the airwaves (with the magnificent exception of National Public Radio). Thus, it is not inevitable that the computer will be used to promote sequential, logical, and complex thought among the mass of people. There are, for example, economic and political interests that would be better served by allowing the bulk of a semiliterate population to entertain itself with the magic of visual computer games, to use and be used by computers without understanding . In this way the computer would remain mysterious and under the control of a bureaucratic elite. There would be no need to educate the young, and childhood could, without obstruction, continue on its journey to oblivion.
Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood , 1982. Italics were added by me.
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