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Cannes Lions

A new generation is born every four years due to age tech is introduced to kids, says MIT director


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

June 17, 2014 | 3 min read

The age at which people are introduced to smart devices has dropped to four years old, meaning an entirely new generation is born every four years, according to MIT Media Lab associate director Andrew Lippman.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions festival, Lippman said that the rate of change in society is proportional to the age at which an individual is introduced to the dominant technology of the time.

"So 60 years ago the dominant technology was the car, and you had to be 16 years to drive one in the US. Therefore the flywheel of society was turning at a 16 year rate – after 16 years we started getting motels, then after 32 years we had malls and 48 years after drive-ins and drive-bys, but each came at roughly a 16 year pace.

"Now the dominant technology is computing and communications. It's the phone in your pocket, and you are introduced to it at the age of four, and that means there is a new generation of people being born every four years...[because] technology is anything invented after you're born."

This also means that we have moved beyond the digital revolution and are "at the edge" of the era of "digital understanding", as a result of four major areas – a mix of data analytics capabilities, people, sensors embedded within cities and society, and spaces and location data, according to Lippman.

"The simultaneous maturation of these four major and distinct technologies means the things that five years ago were dreams, are now pervasive in society, and it happened suddenly, and all together will change our world."

He added that analytics or "big" data is critical in the future binding together of multiple data sources to create meaning and understanding behind concepts in a a way not previously possible.

He stressed the importance of not confusing big data with "lots of " data, adding that companies such as supermarkets have been collecting data on us for years, just haven't known who to integrate it.

"The difference with big data, rather than lots of data, is that it crosses boundaries. It breaks down silos and analyses data from a multiplicity of sources and combines it to create something interpretable.

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