Sunday, October 24, 2004

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from the Wiggles

The process of children learning about the world fascinates me. They take so many amazing things at face value because these things are presented to kids as utterly ordinary and because children have no means to understand the underlying systems.

Take television, that object of love and hatred in every parents home: a screen on which things can be made to appear (using videos or DVDs) and on which some things simply appear of their own accord (broadcasts).

It is frustrating for children (and therefore for their parents) that some images cannot be brought back for a second (and 87th) viewing. A quick burst of the equestrian events at the Olympics (the first ‘sport’ to be ditched the very second they make me IOC President, along with syncronised swimming and competitve antique clock-fixing) has the Dude clamoring for more: horses! Horses!

How to explain to the Dude that his father, normally Lord of all he surveys, cannot bring back the horses but can show Bob the Builder stuck atop a scaffold again and again? And again.

When I was a child I remember having a conversation with a chum about what we had seen on our respective TV sets:

‘Wow, you watched The Flintstones? Hey, The Flintstones was on my TV too!’

I mean, why would a child assume that every TV set, each a different shape and size and in a different home, is capable of showing exactly the same thing? A TV is just an unquestioned source of sound and vision

On Saturday morning, we had a friend over for brunch. On Sunday morning, the Dude saw her again on the TV on one of those journalists-chewing-over-the-week shows. At what point will he realise that family friends do not ordinarily turn up on that screen in the corner? (I quickly rang another family member to see if our friend was on their TV as well. She was! Unlike children, I remain amazed by television and all its wondrous ways).

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