So Smart, and Yet So Very D-U-MPosted: June 17, 2011
There are many young people today who can’t multiply 7 times 4 without the aid of a computer app — while I can multiply in my head all the way through the 12’s at the speed of sound. Yet I’m widely considered to be the stupid one because I don’t know how to use the app.
For generations, the definition of smart was agreed upon. There were three types of smart: book smart, street smart and “smart with your hands.” You fell predominantly into one category with perhaps glimmers of talent in one of the other categories. However, a new type of smart has emerged as the overarching superpower of smart: technologically smart. Book smart, street smart and “smart with your hands” are mere subcategories – like add-ons.
What this means is that if you can read the Magna Carta in five different languages – (or how about if you even know what the Magna Carta IS) — but you can’t color-correct the age spots on your pictures in Picassa, you are considered an idiot by those who are not yet halfway to dead.
This is demoralizing for people like me who have lived the vast majority of their life thinking of themselves as basically smart. My parents (also basically smart people) and my generation were both caught by surprise with the rapid advances in technology – but my parents’ generation could pass off their failure to stay current to the fact that they’re old and don’t have the desire or need to keep up with it all.
I don’t have that option. If I didn’t keep up with technology, I wouldn’t be able to drive my car in the rain at night. The dashboard on my car even has spa options, and I found out the hard way that if I didn’t quickly figure out the right combination of buttons to push and dials to adjust, my buttocks were going to need barbecue sauce by the time I arrived at my destination.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love the effects of technology. I love the seat-warmers in my car and I love my computer and my cell phone. What I don’t understand is why it takes 3 billion buttons to make it all work. Advancement means “progression to a higher state of development” but only the “ends” of technology are advancing. I can take pictures with my phone! The “means” to achieving the end are regressing. (“Which 15 buttons do I have to push before I can TAKE a picture with my phone?”) The ends and the means are not progressing hand in hand.
For example, my parents grew up in the age of radio, and yet even when their television set went from black-and-white to color, they could still turn it on every single day when they were my age without reading a manual and swearing and calling their kids. I can’t always do that – and I grew up in the age of television. I feel Amish when it takes more brain cells to turn on my television than it does to watch it.
And yet I find comfort in imagining that every person who has ever worked at NASA has said to themselves on at least one occasion, “Jeez, here I am a rocket scientist and I can’t even figure out how to turn on my damn TV!”.
But when I try to deconstruct the television clicker, I think to myself, “How did the designer ever sell this idea to the sales force? Why wouldn’t the sales force take one look at that clicker and say, ‘This is f-ing ridiculous!’” Which leads me to conclude that clicker designers are actually better salespeople than they are designers. And makes me wish that they’d put their talents to selling a peace plan to the Mideast.
The only thing that keeps me sane is patience. I know our day is coming, fellow halfway-to-deaders! We may be dead when our day comes, but it is coming. And that’s the day when young people will say, “Look! This television clicker only has 4 buttons! On/off, volume up/volume down, channel up/channel down, and enter channel number so you don’t have to scroll through all the numbers to get to channel #987! Isn’t that great?”
To which we will reply, “Yes. We know. It Is.”
– Marci Crestani