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Tech illiteracy will enslave the population

23 Dec

“Kids these days are so amazing at using the computer!”

Dwight-Schrute-False

 

It’s popular wisdom that the younger generations are “tech natives” and naturally know how to use technology given that they grew up in a world with that technology. In my experience, this sentiment is usually uttered by people so far removed from technology, that the simplest operation of technology appears to be magic.

The fact is, most people today who appear to “know how to use a computer” can only navigate very specific services and devices. For example: If you ask the average North American teenager or college student, they’d probably be able to show you with ease how to navigate facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr, reddit, or a smartphone. If you ask them to install a new operating system on their computer, build a computer, write a program, or design a website they’ll stare at you like a deer in the headlights.

They don’t know how to do these things and they’re the “tech natives.” The reality is that they, like most people who use technology, have a nice comfortable bubble of “these are the programs and devices I use daily” and that’s it. They like things simple and predictable. Throw them an error or something unexpected and they’re helpless.

In my short time working in the tech field I’ve been shocked at just how few basic troubleshooting skills people have when it comes to technology. For most of the people I’ve come across, the computer is a magic box and if something doesn’t work, they’re helpless. What I find really interesting is that people don’t usually think this way about their cars.

If they get in their car to go to work in the morning and it doesn’t start, I think most people wouldn’t immediately throw up their hands and go “oh no! the magical car is broken!  I have no idea what it could be!” Most people would at least check to see if it has gas, then check to see if the battery was dead. Some of the more advanced drivers would then check other engine factors. The point is, most people would at least investigate to some small degree.

Not so with computers. I think the disconnect is partly due to the fact that, unlike a car, there really aren’t that many moving parts to a computer. If a program stops working, it’s harder to visualize why that program stopped working. As such, most people lack even basic troubleshooting skills when it comes to computers.

I want to preface what I’m about to say with a disclaimer. I am not a microsoft fanboy. I really couldn’t care less if you love or hate microsoft. That being said: I dislike Mac computers.

I say I dislike them not for technical reasons, well maybe a little, but mainly for philosophical reasons. You see, I believe Mac’s popularity is connected with the fact that people are technologically illiterate and just want things to “work.”

“But GP! What’s wrong with just wanting things to work?! For wanting a smooth user experience with little to no technical knowledge required by the user? Doesn’t that democratize technology and enable the lowest common denominator access to that technology?”

Yes, it does open technology up to the lowest common denominator in a way that does not require them to have any technical knowledge, and that’s the problem!

Look, computers aren’t perfect. From time to time you’re going to run into problems that require you to think critically. That’s precisely what Macs (and console gaming for that matter) try to avoid. They try to design a user experience that requires as little thinking as possible on the part of the user.

In a world that is increasingly dependent on technology in everyday life, I can’t help but feel this attitude is reckless and dangerous to society.

You’re creating a generation that is simultaneously dependent on technology and ignorant of the very technology they depend upon. It’s a recipe for a gullible and vulnerable population; which is precisely why there is an incentive for the status quo to perpetuate this trend.

Technology is a very potent force for change, yet if the population can’t interact with that technology outside of a specific set of regulated and confined relations, then that technology loses all potential as a change agent.

At the end of the book “Cypherpunks” Jullian Assange talks about a future wherein he foresees the only truly “free” people in the world being the people who are technically literate. Sadly, I think he’s right in his prediction of where the world is going. At least in my experience as a help-desk technician and systems administrator I’ve seen that most people not only lack basic technical and troubleshooting skills, but are actively hostile to the notion of acquiring those skills. 

Darwin was famous for is realization that organisms most adaptive to change were the organisms most likely to survive. The technically illiterate people who happily consume no-thinking required products are not only refusing to adapt to a technical world, they’re content to stay ignorant in exchange for ease of use and comfort. They’re too short-sighted to see that there is a price for ignorance: freedom.

 

Requiem for a dream and Matrix theme songs are overused garbage.

30 Jan

You know what I can’t stand? Whenever somebody uses the song from “Requiem for a dream” or the matrix theme song. You know the ones I’m talking about:

These songs have been over played to death. People use them all the time in shitty youtube videos, usually about some wack job conspiracy. For the love of all that is good, stop using this crap. It doesn’t make your video any better, it just identifies you as someone with no substance who’s trying to add a sense of mystery or suspense in attempt to give your video some credibility. In truth, using these tracks does just the opposite.

The casual fascist

20 Nov

Lately I’ve come to the realization that a few of the people I know, and I get the feeling that a lot of society as a whole, are casual fascists.

That’s quite a bold statement, so let me clarify:

The bill of rights has really been a hot topic these past 10 years since 9/11, and especially so now given the Occupy Wall Street protests. What does free speech entail? Are there limits to it? Are there limits to freedom of assembly? If so, what are these limits, and how do we decide where they lie?

I guess I would call myself a First Amendment purist. I recognize that you can’t shout fire in a crowded theatre when there is none and claim free speech, but other than that, have at it. I also recognize that you can’t invade someone’s private property and claim freedom of assembly, but as long as you’re on public property, anything is fair game.

The issue that has raised the most conflict between me and the people I know is what the First Amendment rights were meant to protect. For me, the first amendment rights were created to protect the people you disagree with the most, the people who disgust you, those whom you might even hate. The rights are there to protect those people and what they might say. Popular speech does not need protecting from the majority that supports it. For me, and many of my liberal friends, the people we find to be disgusting and repulsive tend to be people like Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, religious fundamentalists, anti-feminists, anti-choicers, and the Westboro Baptist Church.

For my conservative friends, they might be disgusted and repulsed by Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Bernie Sanders, Julian Assange, etc.

I know people on both sides of the aisle that would have no problem curving, if even only slightly, the rights of those with whom they vehemently disagree. I, on the other hand, find this equally disgusting. For example, while I might despise the Westboro Baptist Church and anyone else who stands on the street corner shouting, “Fags go to hell!!”, I would never want to see their rights curbed.

A few people who I’ve talked to about the OWS movement mentioned that the freedom of assembly does not include disrupting traffic and the daily business activities of a city. Wrong: the freedom of assembly exists to protect exactly this kind of unpopular assembly. If the goal of the protest is to shatter your comfortable sense of normalcy in order to make you wake up and see an issue, then they have every right to be an inconvenience. We wouldn’t need freedom of assembly if everyone protested in designated little corners, far removed from the people they’re protesting.

I would like to make an important distinction here that often gets thrown up as a straw man. There is a saying that goes, “my rights end where your nose begins.” Meaning, my rights do not include physically harming you or your property. People have the right to assemble wherever they want on public property as long as they are not destroying things.

When I use the term “casual fascist” to describe someone, I don’t mean that they’re a Nazi storm trooper that wants to beat people they disagree with, or that they condone full scale censorship. No, what I mean by that is simply that, while they might be perfectly nice people, they are alright with the erosion, however gradual, of the rights of the people they disagree with.

“I believe in the first amendment, but….”

Is any publicity really good publicity?

5 Dec

There is an old saying “Any publicity is good publicity,” but is that really true? I’m inclined to think it’s not. The way I see it first impressions are very important. If a major news network picks up your group or cause and frames you in a negative light, then the general public is going to have a bad impression of you. A friend of mine suggested that while people might dislike your group, they will be made aware of you and that will get them to think. If they investigate your group and what you stand for, they may even be won over to your side.

At first I accepted this, but upon considering it further, I think it rests on a major flaw. It assumes that people will think; that they will take the time out of their day to examine your group and the reasons behind what you believe. Unfortunately I think this gives humanity way too much credit. It has been my experience that the mass of humanity is comprised of idiots who actively try to avoid thinking. If a news agency picks up your group and casts you in a negative light, then that’s the first and final impression everyone will have of your group. Sure there will be some people who take the time to critically examine your group, but there are so few of them that the strategy of “any publicity is good publicity” is not efficient.

I really feel it is better to be unknown than hated. The key difference between those states is your potential. A group that is unknown has the potential to be viewed in a positive light by the rest of the world. A group that is known and viewed negatively does not have that potential because the majority of people’s minds are already made up. Their battle is all the more difficult because of this. It’s easier to win people over if they don’t have any preconceived notions about you than it is to win them over if they dislike you.

So what do you think? Is any publicity really good publicity? Or should you be mindful of how you’re portrayed and seen by the people you’re attempting to win over?

Tourists…

31 Aug

I’m not sure why, but tourists have been on my mind a lot in the past 10 minutes. (So instead of getting some sleep I write a post about it) I grew up in a tourist town, Virginia Beach, VA. It’s not as big as Washington, D.C., but it have over 440,000 people living there. The city’s economy relied on two things: the massive military presence in the area and tourism. I never went down to the beach much because it was covered in tourists. All along the boardwalk there were shops selling cheap touristy crap and parking was a nightmare. We kind of looked down on tourists. They were like babies that didn’t know anything and made a mess. Admittedly this is kind of a stupid attitude to have when the tourists are bringing in money to support your town, but we still did not  respect them. Some people tolerated them, others wished they’d go home. I still feel most people think this about tourists all over the world, at least initially.

I was twelve when I first traveled out of the US. The trip took me to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. The year was 2000 so traveling as an American was a lot easier. The terrorist attacks of 9-11 were a year away and we had not yet started invading other countries at will. Nevertheless, I was fearful of appearing as a loud, ignorant, spoiled American.  During the trip I trended to stay quiet and isolated myself from the tour group whenever possible. Unfortunately, a lot of the people in the tour group were loud and obnoxious. I remember taking a carriage ride up to Neuschwanstein Castle and over hearing another group of Americans complaining that they could walk faster than the horse pulled the carriage up the hill. (Then get your fat ass out of the carriage and walk!) I also remember that a lot of the people in the tour group would walk up to natives and automatically start asking questions in fast English. Yes, English is a lingua franca for most of Europe, but I felt this was still rude. How would you feel if a stranger came up to you and started frantically speaking in a foreign language without warning? There are people in the US that love to say “if someone is going to come here, they need to learn the language!” Mostly they are talking about Hispanics immigrating from South America, but I’ve always wondered if these people felt the same applied to them if they visited another country. (Most likely not because I find the people who get upset about these types of things seldom travel outside of their town and are very xenophobic)

That first trip was quite a learning experience. I have since traveled to Europe three times. All three times were when America was under Bush and after the invasion of Iraq, so I had to tread lightly (Despite supporting neither). In order to avoid that horrible American tourist stereotype I developed some personal guidelines for how I act when I’m in another country:

  • First off, and most importantly, I try to be humble. I am in another person’s country and home, I don’t tell them how things should be.
  • I tend to try and listen more and talk less. I find people really appreciate when someone stops to listen to what they have to say.
  • If I need help, I at least make an attempt to speak their language. I know I will butcher it, but I’ve found most people are amazed you even bothered in the first place. When you are open about your ignorance, but give it an honest try, you’ll find most people speak English and are more than happy to help you.
  • I try and take as little as possible. Traveling around Europe is not like being on an all-you-can-eat cruise ship, nor is it just a giant theme park. These are people’s homes. Don’t make a mess, take only what you need, and be polite.
  • Don’t complain about how things are different. If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s hearing my fellow American tourists complain about the lack of creature comforts everywhere. So your room doesn’t have air conditioning and they don’t put ice in your coke, deal with it.
  • Try the local foods, even if they may sound weird. I’ve been on trips where all the other people in the tour group wanted was American food. You get that all the time in America! We’re in another country! Try something new!
  • Lastly, I try not to look overly like a tourist. I know this is superficial and impossible to completely hide, but I try to minimize how much I stand out.  Most tourists are easy to point out. Their clothes don’t match what the natives are wearing, they have a camera out all the time, they’re wearing sneakers or a baseball cap, and they often have some type of fanny/belt pack.  I find a simple backpack looks a lot less suspicious and can hold a lot more of your stuff.

God is a volcano

26 Mar

So I found a really interesting video I thought I’d share with ya’ll.

Republican hypocrisy on healthcare:Abortion

12 Mar

So I saw this comic yesterday and it really struck me:

Wow, come to think of it, that really makes sense. What constantly gets me is how republicans say they don’t want government in their lives, but then they turn around and demand that government intervene in other people’s lives to enforce their moral code.