I was better educated than my parents, because I was able to stay at school longer than them.
Both my parents had to leave school on their 14th birthdays – to start working for their livings. But when I was 14 the difference between their schooling and mine was negligible. That’s because the basic raw materials used to teach us hadn’t changed very much. Their teachers and mine relied on text books to provide basic information. If we wanted more detail than a textbook supplied we had to go into town and use a public library.
And when my parents and I learnt how to do sums we applied the multiplication tables we’d memorised in childhood, and the ancient basic principles of arithmetic. Later on, when I learnt maths, the slightly more complicated calculations had to be done with the aid of something called log tables or a slide-rule – tools my parents would also have used, had they ever been taught maths.
The revolution started just after I left school.
I remember the first electronic calculator I saw. It could only do basic arithmetic, and it cost about a week’s wages, but I was amazed, it was magic. About a year later I saw a calculator that could do complicated mathematical equations. It was about the size of a brick and cost about a year’s wages. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted it.
It’s just over one generation since I saw that first calculator and where we are today, where any western child always has instant access to almost any information about anything anywhere in the world. It’s very easy to think that because technology has advanced so incredibly far society has improved too. That’s a huge mistake. Although most of our material possessions are much better than they ever were, the way our society is ruled is effectively unchanged from centuries ago.
The super-rich continue to oppress and exploit the super-poor, just as they’ve always done. The reason politics has failed to keep pace with technology is because politics and information have always been controlled by the super-rich, and they don’t like political change. But they don’t control information any more, and they can’t stop us learning the truth any more.
In 500 years’ time historians will look back on this generation as being one of the most significant in human history. It’ll be right up there with fire-making, wheel invention and the printing press. The information revolution of our generation is nothing short of mind-blowing and I feel hugely privileged to have witnessed it. I only hope the historians will also be able to notice a (yet-to-happen) political revolution that matches the information one.
Marratts Lane, Great Gonerby