I believe that we are now in a transition phase and that digital illiteracy will in part decline over time. I say partly because I think there are also aspects of “digital illiteracy” that are not getting better and even getting worse.
“Previously” the newspaper was in the newspaper tray, writing utensils in one drawer under the TV, cutlery in the cutlery tray and the insurance papers in the safe. Everything was in place.
When the computer was introduced, software and document filing systems were also set up in this way, analogous to the “real” world.
Software has now evolved in such a way that it is easier (for the software and in the programmer’s eye: for the end user) to have all documents in one database. In that database, all data must be enriched with additional functions (extension, tags, size, exif, etc.)) so that it (in theory) can be easily found. Where exactly it is stored is no longer important.
But because (probably) most people here (including myself) and our teachers and programmers of the software we grew up with still grew up with the (linguistic) pharmacy, where each drawer contained its own type of documents, there are also many people who have difficulty switching to the other system.
I also think I like organizing files. It is a proven and fine system for me, although I understand the thinking behind “the black box with files and all kinds of metadata”.
The people who are now being trained as teachers are learning better to think in the “new” way, so I expect digital illiteracy in document structures to decline in about ten years.
The technical side of the story
One side that I can not see getting better is the technique of the story.
Of course, there were also very advanced systems up to – let’s say – about 40 years ago, but one could quickly understand most of the technology. In my father’s youth he bought a moped and out of interest he took things apart and put them back together. He must have gone “on his mouth” because he could not rebuild anything in the right way, but in general it went well and he learned a lot about motorcycle / car technology.
Also with other devices (let’s say until the time of the first circuit boards) it was pretty easy and clear to see what was actually happening.
Of course, there were already people who did not want to dive into the technology, but I think people in general were more skilled at repairs back then.
Of course, it was very different with the first software, but the programming language of the time was still quite basic (pun intended) and easy to follow. And especially because there was no user interface or you still often had to be in the MS-DOS prompt.
Now both the first and the second have changed a lot. You do not just enter the source code of the software and therefore no longer see how it works (if you already understand the programming language!) And the settings on (for example) an average iPhone is a reasonable black box for many. And besides, it’s all become hugely more advanced and that does not really invite a layman to get started with it. In a way, even a modern moped is almost a full-fledged computer on wheels.
I think today’s young people are not so quick to look deep into the settings on an iPhone (or moped), let alone try to look in the source code. Of course, there are exceptions.
This also applies to the technology behind other everyday things such as the thermostat, solar panels, a car. Just to name a few.
As a result, fewer and fewer people understand how technology really works. Add to that the fact that many jobs in technology do not pay off very well (of course there are also exceptions here in the form of programmers / consultants with high hourly rates), then far too few people get into technology.
And that’s a big problem.
And that brings me to the last problem: disinterest.
I think the generation born in the 80s and early 90s is the last generation that still had to search for solutions in all sorts of areas and had only a limited number (but most reliable * !) sources for this. Information for a paper had to be looked up at the (school) library and for technical matters one had to ask for help from a specialist or one had to look for a good manual in a large bookstore in the city.
Today, you can find “everything” by searching the internet. In most cases, you will find the right answer within seconds. As a result, people have become spoiled and the confidence in what they find on the internet is very high. Yet there is also a lot of nonsense on the internet and it is sometimes difficult to determine if it really is the right answer.
Because people have become accustomed to finding information quickly, the attention span is probably not that great anymore, and people lose interest more quickly when it takes longer to find an answer.
* Assessment of sources is also a skill that you should learn in school (and from your parents). I just do not know how to explain it right now. I even have the thought that I can judge whether a source is reliable or not, but I can not really explain what I base it on. But hey, that’s feed for a whole other topic