Friday, March 24, 2006


I´m sure most of us have friends who send us these sweet/cute/clever mails on a frequent basis. I can think of four people in particular who send me such mails (Annemarie, Lynn, Jorge, and Alma). I seldom have time to read this kind of stuff, but I do keep them, and when in need of a light moment I read one or two. So today I was reading a work by Dominique Foray, and happened across this excerpt on memory (you will know that I have recently hinted at my own memory deficits (see and

start excerpt:
Today´s younger generations might never experience the emotions aroused on rediscovering old books or toys in the attic that still work. Future machines may never be able to bring back to life the equivalent of our elders´wooden horses and toy soldiers.
end excerpt:
source: Foray, D. 2004. The Economics of Knowledge. MIT Press

Yes, what we are confronted with is the well-known problem of preservation in the digital age, but Foray is phrasing it in the old paradigm, and thát made me stop and think. We know that technology becomes obsolete, and that what is accessible today most definitely will not be accessible in future if not subjected to digital preservation techniques of some sort (emulation, content preservation).

How does this relate to the cutsey-clever mails that my friends send? It is that I received a mail from Alma the other day (reproduced below), which made me think about how children are often not raised these days. For instance there is a reference to one´s being able to disappear all day and only return home at night. I had that kind of childhood. For sure, when looking at my nieces, the same cannot be said and that in effect they lead a rather cloistered life. Why is this? Well, in South Africa, and in what seems to me a particularly Anglosaxon neurosis, the scares around the ubiquity of child abuse has led to children no longer being given the sorts of freedoms that I had when a child.

the mail:
TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's !! First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
end of the mail


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