Don't Saw Wood With a Cucumber

There was some predictable disagreement over that post I commented on yesterday on kids’ ignorance of computers. Chief among the dissenting voices was Harry Marks, who (with typically enjoyable acerbity) dissected the original:

Knowledge is valuable. We should all be more aware of the devices we use every day and, as Scott states in a very important section towards the end, so should the people making the laws tied to those devices.

However, not everyone is going to learn to code, nor are they going to take the time to assemble their own PCs. This doesn’t make them incompetent. It doesn’t even make them lazy. They are people with different priorities than Scott. They have different jobs and needs. Some people just want to buy a computer and get their work done and trust those with more training to make it better when it gets sick.

Marks was a little harsh in the robustness of his rebuttal. There’s a straw-like texture to some of the viewpoints he attributes to Scott, shall we say, or at least he takes the most stringent interpretation.

If you read it extremely leniently, I don’t think the original article was really arguing that everyone should become tech-geniuses — at least, that’s not what I took away. Once you buff away some of the indignation from what Scott was saying, the important thing is this:1

“Computers” are only going to continue to permeate your life. We need to get away from this us and them mindset: the techies and the non-techies. The nerds and the people that “just want to get the job done”. The smart ones and the luddites. We’re all on a continuum now.

Only knowing your tools to the extent that they let you accomplish a particular task is extremely dangerous. It has a nice, salt-of-the-earth ring to it, sure. But it leaves you open to some horrendous inefficiencies (people who calendar using Excel, people who design websites in Word, etc) and when things go wrong you might just find you’re completely screwed. And doing something in the knowledge that someone else will pick up the pieces once you inevitably mess it up because of your ignorance is pretty poor form, in my book.

A good workman turns up to a job with a full toolbox, and doesn’t have to use a butterknife to put some screws in. “But it gets the job done!” Sure. That doesn’t make it right.

EDIT: Changed a couple of words to make it clear that I’m not in disagreement with Marks.

  1. And maybe I’m just projecting here, which I’ll happily admit to.