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November 23, 2009

Wanted: Improved, higher-functioning, digitally-competent Boomers.

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CBS

Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with TV--so why can't we take the next steps? Gen-Y and Gen-X are very right about one thing: Boomers really are big babies, and often arrogant, about Tech. We are above it, some of us think. But we aren't--and can't be. Time to grow up.

Boomers: They just don't [heart] tech enough. For a lawyer, and especially one born between 1946 and 1966, I'm not too bad at science, or even math. Geometry came easily. Calculus not so easily. At my mega-competitive college prep high school in Cincinnati, I was always one of the handful of underachievers in the mega-smart kids' math class. Those who went on to careers in medicine could always count on me to skew the grades in their direction.

I liked the Humanities much better, and still do. Science, Math, Tech, Numbers. It wasn't that they were hard; it was that they seemed, at the time, to lack mystery. Nowadays, and in doses, I do like playing with business numbers, market shares, and even budgets. Some people even say I'm good at it. But none of it really turns me on.

Numbers and the often-mathematical elegance of the Universe? Okay, I'm older now. It's all there--I admit it. But if something has "one" answer, or fits into a recognized theory, or model, it's still not as interesting to me as things that are, well, more complex, impossible to sort out quickly with Western logic, metaphysical.

I strongly associate "the need for certainty"--either scientific or moral, in either nature or society--with small ideas and small minds. I am sure that I am wrong about that. I am wrong, and wrong-headed, about many things.

Same with the new Digital World. And Word Processing, Document Management, Graphics. Frankly, I don't like any of "it"--and prefer others (always younger) do "it" for me. Documents especially. I do not like to type them, create them, edit them, manage them, store them and retrieve them. Secretly, I do not even like computers, cell phones, video-conferencing, anything electrical--and never will. I like humans, voices, winks, laughs, sneers, grimaces, smiles, flirtations, handshakes, and bodies in the room.

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Boomer lawyers discussing Cicero, Flaubert, existential dread, and EU politics before getting their Tech thing on.

But hating computers is hurting me--and wasting the time of others who I demand do it for me. I am working more and more on my tech. (If you think by the way that operating a blog is "technical", think again; the blogging platforms available make that all very easy.)

Gen-Y and Gen-X are very right about one thing: many Baby Boomers really are babies, and often arrogantly helpless cretins, about Tech. We are above it, we think. Well, we are not above it. We cannot be.

So for a guy who wrote his big thesis at Duke for a Japan history seminar on "How the Shishi Got the Chutzpah to Overthrow the Bakufu", I have come a long way with Tech.

But not far enough. I still drive two nice consultants in two cities crazy with my whines about the equipment, the programs, all the changes, all the... So I need to learn and keep doing more. I still prefer Boomers for co-workers, having given up on younger generations for the time being. Boomers will work long and passionately into their sixties, seventies and even eighties. They are never offended by hard work or complex problems. They don't think that digital toys make your work better--and they are right about that. Boomers like complexity, ambiguity, and genuinely hard problems. Gadgets? They just make you coffee, or give you a copy.

I'd rather work with a 50-year-old than anyone because he or she, generally, will go on until the last dog dies. Never prissy. Always engaged. Nothing is too hard. Boomers are "Foxhole People" to the core.

The tools of the digital world--creation, management, storage, retrieval and shipment of documents--may not make the work product better. But it does make work easier. The over-45 crowd must stop relying on younger people to do that work. And we must quit whining about Tech, and having to learn it. We cannot afford to be above it any longer.

Boomers, to be sure, are still digitally-challenged--and under-performing on Tech. We are too content to be able to turn computers on and off, send and receive e-mail, and use search engines. We were the first generation to grow up with TV--why can't we take the next steps?

So it's not enough. I promise to learn more. Anybody with me?

Posted by JD Hull at November 23, 2009 11:59 PM

Comments

I've been pigeon holed into the baby boomer generation solely because I was born in 64, but I am so far apart from that generation in just about every way. I am quite computer literate for an attorney, but I'm constantly harassed by my boss, who is of your generation, who insists that I dictate everything so my secretary can type it out. Give me a keyboard and a monitor to compose on any day, throw away the dictaphone. I type better than my secretary.

Posted by: JJ at November 23, 2009 08:10 PM

sursum ad summum

Posted by: WHHS at November 24, 2009 09:14 AM

I am a Gen X lawyer. 6 years ago when I was still an associate, I had a Boomer berate me "for typing your own memo." He said I should either dictate or write it our LONG HAND of all things and give it to my assistant. My response was simply "I type 80 words a minute. Why would I dictate it or write it out by long hand?" Effective use of technology saves clients time and money in terms of total billable hours. Learn to use the tech; younger lawyers are tired of being your Help Desk.

Posted by: EFF at November 25, 2009 12:03 AM

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