Monday, October 17, 2005

What do you really know how to do? - Day 963

He was late because the tow truck took a long time to come and change his tire. Not because the spare or the jack was missing, not because the spare was flat. He was late because he did not know how. Huh? This got me to thinking. What do I really know how to do? The short answer is not very much, but a whole lot more than many. My brother and law is a dairy farmer. He understands crops, planting, animals. I would starve if my life depended on my ability to raise my own food. There is something wrong with that in my mind. Ask yourself, what do you really know how to do? Isaac Asimov wrote three books together called the Foundation trilogy. In these stories a galactic empire has ruled for two thousand years, but in the end the empire decays because nobody can repair the basic infrastructure of life like power plants and transportation. My own job is becoming specialized. As automobiles become complex, fewer techs actually can diagnose them. Cars become more reliable and the number of technicians go down every year even while the number of vehicles on the road go up. As the number of techs go down, the number of qualified techs is going down faster. Customer service overall is down.
As yourself, what do you really know? If your car stops, could you get it going? Your dad could. If the power went off, could you survive?

Never before have so many known so little about so much.

A grease fire in a Burger King in London shuts down Heathrow airport. The economy lost millions. A single grease fire.

A power disruption starts a cascade of power disruptions and the entire east coast of the USA is shut down. People react like it is the end of the world.

It just seems that as we "progress" we now have grown men who cant change a tire, fix a broken front door, grow a crop. We have become so specialized we are as a culture very thin in our general knowledge. Virtual reality is more interesting I guess. What does it say when the typical 20 something can get to the fifth level of his video game, but doesn't know how to check his coolant? I don't think it is progress when the typical person from a century ago had a greater knowledge base than what I see now. We just know our celebrities better.

I love sailing for this fact - you had better know your basics or you will quickly get into trouble. You have to know weather, astronomy, navigation, the difference between good drinking water and bad, international laws, radar, engine repair, electrical repair, and safety. In short, when you are on a boat more than 20 miles from shore you are on your own. No towing company or Plumber to call. You are it.

Just the way it should be.

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