An Exchange with CID

Textingby Cato   8/7/14
The exchange in this online community began with: For all of you fuddy-duddies that think today’s youth spend too much time in front of “the machines,” read this blog post. It supports my long-held view that the single most important trait for successful workers is curiosity.

Since most of the technology businesses I’m involved with are populated with young’uns, I see this in action all the time. One of my attorneys sent this to me. CID

What the attorney had sent to CID was this:

I just ran across a blog post that makes CID’s often stated point that curiosity is the most important trait to have to create a successful future. It goes on to make the case that the current generation (SA’s daughter G) and their ability to multitask facilitates that sense of curiosity. One of the more positive spins on the wave of the future. Interesting to think about it that way. Maybe our best days ARE in front of us…… S

And my reply to S and CID was this:

Confirmation bias at work, CID. The linked blog post suggests the young are somehow advantaged mentally by their addiction to electronic devices. This is nonsense.

You work with tech businesses that attract active, curious, mentally aggressive young people, and come to the conclusion this entire generation shares those traits? I’d be equally amiss assuming the best of the scary-smart 20-somethings I met at TXN were characteristic of their generation as well.

Certainly the best of them are impressive, but then the best of every generation is impressive, especially if you isolate the skills that are unique to that generation — skills these exceptionals exemplify — and make that your marker. They socialize via electronics incredibly well. Is that a reasonable metric for judging them mentally superior as a generation?

What I see is a generation, broadly speaking, with remarkable social skills and a rather pronounced inability to function outside approval systems validated by “the group.” I see herd instincts honed and developed and, contrary to the blog, very limiting in some ways.

Thinking independently, especially thinking in long form on complex issues over extended time frames, is becoming not only a lost art but renders one a social outcast. They are producing, metaphorically, too many bumper sticker answers and not enough deep treatises. What I’m saying, my observations and judgment only of course, is: too much crowd-sourcing and not nearly enough independent initiative.

Which is why, perhaps, this is the first generation in the industrial age with nearly half of its over-age-21 members living at home with Mom and Dad. Do you know anyone your age today who as a young man just out of college would not have lived out of a car or in a cold water flat rather than demean himself to move back in with Mom and Dad, in his boyhood room? I don’t. Just a thought.

That was all on Wednesday. On Thursday the WSJ published a book review of relevance, which I reprint for you below because it’s behind a pay wall. I introduced the article with this commentary:

Just as CID and I were exchanging ideas on the impact and value of connectedness, this pops up.

I think my observation, contention really, that the smartphone-disabled young lack the ability to direct and maintain focus has substance.

Anecdotally, toward the end of my long association with TXN I noted to management that the newest hires coming through my finance seminars were different from groups even 5 years prior, much less 10 or 20 years ago. They wanted 1) not insight into financial issues but formulas that would be installed in a computer and run with a minimum of understanding and 2) they were impatient with the pyramid-building approach to teaching, that is, they lost interest quickly with establishing a base of concepts then layering examples and insights upon that base. They wanted “facts” and “data” in discrete, bite-sized pieces, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that they could then edit and arrange into a picture.

Finance not being a discipline that is easily compartmentalized, unitized and placed on a grid — as are for instance the listed rules of accounting — I was losing favor and ratings consistently over the last few years of my efforts. One can’t teach financial sophistication by means of a checklist. And many of these seminarians were incapable of thinking otherwise.

Perhaps of interest to CID given his work (note: he is a gifted and very successful management consultant), I also noted that TXN, which 20 years ago was very decentralized in its management structure, had become much more autocratic and rigid. Hierarchy had replaced distributed responsibility even as the number of management layers had been reduced from about 6 to 4, and in some groups to 3.

I don’t find the change in thinking and learning processes, on the one hand, and decision rigidity, on the other, to be unrelated. Hard to say which lead to the other, but I suspect the change in management style was of necessity, and came second.

My opinion of electronic interconnectedness is colored by this experience, without question. But I think there is much to be concerned about, not the least of which is that politicians — like Obama, who exemplifies the compartmental, checklisted, bite-sized, and often disjointed, intellectually dishonest and illogical manner of thinking I see around me — will flourish among those incapable of seeing beyond the content-limits of their glowing screens.


WSJEd
Book Review: The End of Absence by Michael Harris

The author marvels as his infant nephew fingers the pages of a magazine, trying to make the pictures change with a touchscreen swipe.

By Jessica Kasmer-Jacobs
Updated Aug. 6, 2014 7:46 p.m. ET

Johannes Trithemius was a bit of a worrier. In 1483 the Benedictine scribe had become abbot of a monastery in Sponheim, Germany, not more than 50 miles from the workshop where Johannes Gutenberg had printed his first bibles a few decades before. Trithemius was concerned by the mass produced volumes proliferating thanks to Gutenberg’s innovation. It was the delicate and crucial art of the scribe, he wrote in 1492, that lent “strength to words, memory to things, vigor to time.” If book printing were to replace religious scribes, “faith would weaken . . . law would perish, Scripture fall into oblivion.” At risk was not just the authority of the Church but the souls of its flock.

We are living in our own “Gutenberg moment,” according to Michael Harris ; only today the Internet is to blame, not for corrupting religious belief but for disrupting thought itself. Digital technology, the author suggests in “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection,” has filled the once sacrosanct silences in our heads that let us escape our fleeting daily concerns. Distracted by the constant buzzing of our devices, we lose the chance for novel insights and discoveries, “the kinds of thoughts that present themselves in our emptiest moments—the moments when we stare out the train’s windows or hover on a lawn to monitor the sky.”

The author has ample reason to fret: Global Internet usage has expanded more than 500% in the last decade. According to YouTube’s own statistics, users uploaded 100 hours of video for every minute of real time in 2013. That’s a “decade” of footage posted to the Internet every single day.

Google processes over 3.5 billion queries daily while each American owns, on average, four digital devices. A 2013 report found that Americans aged 18-64 spend an average of 3.2 hours a day on social networking sites.

Mr. Harris, a Canadian journalist, structures his book according to a series of mounting worries about the effects personal technology has on our cognitive function, interpersonal relationships and encounters with the world. The author is concerned about kids who will never know the world without the Internet. He complains bitterly about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone, including computerized “bots” that create data at alarming rates and go virtually unchecked by the site’s overlords. He rues the culture of recorded living, in which we are more eager to upload a photo of a meal to Instagram than we are to eat it, and where we curate online avatars to represent sleeker, happier versions of ourselves. He feels we are increasingly divorced from the “authentic” when we replace real-life objects and communications with mere copies: Kindles for books or text messages for in-person “I-love-yous.”

In an early chapter, Mr. Harris cites a UCLA study that tested “Internet-naïve” people for the effects of using the web on brain neuroplasticity. The study found that new neural pathways are forged after just a few hours of surfing. If children are exposed to that much screen time every day, Mr. Harris argues, their thinking may be shallower as a result. He marvels as his infant nephew fingers the pages of a print magazine, attempting to make the pictures change with a touchscreen swipe. “Will the soft certainty of earlier childhood be replaced by the restless idleness that now encroaches?” he asks.

“Restless idleness” is a good description of our new digital default. Mr. Harris is also right to worry that, when services like Facebook grant us the opportunity to tirelessly tailor our own images and how others see them, we lose the ability to navigate between the authentic and the counterfeit. We snap, crop and filter the events of our lives in a manner that is supposed to portray true life but more often only presents a synthetic surface. The growing distance between online and offline realities reminds Mr. Harris of the Emerald City in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” We choose to wear the emerald glasses because we prefer a glittering world to the real one.

Yet the topic Mr. Harris has chosen is so capacious, and the ways in which the Internet has invaded our lives so various, that his book does little more than gesture at the plethora of problems. And the one he chooses to dwell upon the most—the one that gives his book its title—is the most nebulous of all. Mr. Harris interviews neuroscientists, consults psychologists and discourses with philosophers to bolster his claim that we are losing something crucial, but he struggles to define what “absence” is, though his nostalgia for it seems endless. “The value of absence is always an intangible thing,” he writes, “whether that absence is a memory or a current reality.”

In an attempt to test the value of “absence,” the author gives himself two weeks to read “War and Peace”: “My phone goes off . . . I want to read, but I stop. I know the distractions are unproductive and I fly to them all the same.” He eventually disconnects long enough to slip into Tolstoy’s prose and complete the novel. Victorious, Mr. Harris abstains from technology for a month in the hopes that he might fully recover his lost “absence.” He is sad to find that by the end of the trial, nothing magical has happened—he is still “utterly wired to the promise of connection.” It’s thus unsurprising that Mr. Harris can share little advice for the Internet-addled, other than to be more diligent in choosing our technologies and how much time we spend with them. As connectivity becomes ever more constant, that’s a lot like telling a kid not to eat too much Halloween candy.

Ms. Kasmer-Jacobs is a Bartley fellow this summer at the Journal.


Cato blogs at Cato’s Domain.
About Author  Author Archive  Email • (3410 views)

Share
This entry was posted in Essays. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to An Exchange with CID

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I also noted that TXN, which 20 years ago was very decentralized in its management structure, had become much more autocratic and rigid. Hierarchy had replaced distributed responsibility even as the number of management layers had been reduced from about 6 to 4, and in some groups to 3.

    This is one of the major changes I noted after returning to the States after almost 25 years absence.

    How great the change is was pointed out to me when a Chinese friend who knew the USA from the early and middle 1980’s came here in 2008-9. He was shocked how rigid and controlling American corporations had become. With only a little hyperbole he said to me, “what has happened to American? China is becoming capitalist and America is becoming communist!”

    Again, culture is a huge factor in our lives. It effects everything and how we think affects culture. It seems pretty clear that technology affects the culture in a major way at a deeper level than many understand.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      On the other hand, when I worked for Humana in 1978 (when they were still running hospitals instead of insurance), they were extremely hierarchical — perhaps more so than government bureaucracies, and I had some experience of the latter for comparison.

      • Cato says:

        Many firms moved from a 1950s military style of management system to a decentralized system, starting in the mid-1980s and thereafter. Quite a few are now moving back, at least half way, to a more top down decision process. Consensus and crowd-sourcing of decisions has its strengths, but its two glaring weaknesses are 1)that it is usually painfully slow … in a fast moving commercial environment that can be deadly … and 2) group decisions leave no one ultimately responsible when things go wrong. This isn’t to assign blame so much as to know who to talk to, to get things fixed. So even on “team” systems like Google’s there is increasingly one Big Chief and more little Indians.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I find this kind of article to be highly valuable, Mr. Kung, as I’m sure you do as well. This real-world reporting is what we need. And it is going to tend to come from those who have been through the system and now can safely comment on it. Pat Tarzwell has the terrific idea, for instance, of starting a foundation to take these Cato types (sages, with real-world experience and not just “intellectual” knowledge) back into colleges and universities where they can sit in class, see what is being presented to the skulls-full-of-mush, and refute the liberal/Leftist nonsense right there on the spot where appropriate.

      I think Cato said something truly profound when he said:

      What I see is a generation, broadly speaking, with remarkable social skills and a rather pronounced inability to function outside approval systems validated by “the group.” I see herd instincts honed and developed and, contrary to the blog, very limiting in some ways.

      Thinking independently, especially thinking in long form on complex issues over extended time frames, is becoming not only a lost art but renders one a social outcast. They are producing, metaphorically, too many bumper sticker answers and not enough deep treatises. What I’m saying, my observations and judgment only of course, is: too much crowd-sourcing and not nearly enough independent initiative.

      Cato doesn’t give us the demographics, but I wonder how many women were in these situations. The female instinct is toward “consensus” while males are about standing out from the crowd, by and large, noting that this is a bell-curve trait and there are always exceptions at either end of the curve. Also, feminism and the de-masculization of men has taught them that “consensus” (thinking as females tend to do) is the right way to act and that competition and other “divisive” ways are retrograde.

      The smart person (of either sex) keeps all of these tools in his or her utility belt. But the present point would seem to be that Leftist/Progressive culture tends to make people wimpier. Here’s another good bit:

      They wanted 1) not insight into financial issues but formulas that would be installed in a computer and run with a minimum of understanding and 2) they were impatient with the pyramid-building approach to teaching, that is, they lost interest quickly with establishing a base of concepts then layering examples and insights upon that base. They wanted “facts” and “data” in discrete, bite-sized pieces, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that they could then edit and arrange into a picture.

      This fits perfectly into the moral relativistic aspects of our culture perhaps amplified by our short-attention-span culture. We are not practiced at discerning. We (at least some) instead want “facts” and “data” and have no mind for the context of these facts and data. This is a culture made shallow, at least in part, by moral relativism.

      In fact, moral relativism (in essence, moral cowardice) has invaded much of the corporate and educational establishment. The presumption (a fundament precept of Cultural Marxism) is that we are incapable of making fair judgments. This is so either because of our race — perhaps being of a supposedly “privileged” white race. One of my eye-opening moments was when a teacher told me that in her schools the teachers were afraid of disciplining black kids for fear of being called a racist. We are therefore trained to fall back on a plethora of mindless rules. As for the justification for any one rule? No one knows. No one is taught to try to even know. You just are to shut up and do as you are told.

      I also see the same sort of thinking in libertarians. They give us plenty of bumper sticker slogans, but they can’t put “two and two” together in terms of the general principles behind their slogans. Again, another ideology that is an enemy of wisdom, thinking, and reason, as is political correctness.

      I remember in math class I was too much on the other side. I didn’t really care about learning the formulas of calculus or trigonometry. I wanted to know why they worked. I wanted to know what this told us about the world. As a conservative, I’m totally okay with rote learning, for we can’t question everything and get anywhere. And this is fine in terms of more academic subjects to a large extent. But I do think that a culture that is taught the same in regards to any other type of thinking is impoverishing itself. If one’s answer to why abortion should be legal is “Because it’s a woman’s right to choose,” you know you have encountered moral idiocy, the kind of mindset that doesn’t reason or understand but can think only in terms of someone else’s pre-canned “data” or slogans. And I can see this easily carrying over to the technical realm. And it seems it has.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        This real-world reporting is what we need. And it is going to tend to come from those who have been through the system and now can safely comment on it.

        I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I think Cato is such a great find for the site. Too many (especially Leftists and absolute Libertarians) are simply impressed with a tight intellectual argument i.e. pretty words, as opposed to making good arguments on basis of observation and fact.

        We (at least some) instead want “facts” and “data” and have no mind for the context of these facts and data.

        Someone, I forget who, said, “one can be very knowledgeable yet not understand anything.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mr. Kung, I think the answer to the rigid hierarchy of American corporations has to do with the fact that the education system of the United States is sub par, to put it mildly.

      I have a friend who is in management at Walmart. And I’ve been truly shocked and amused hearing his stories. I sympathize with Walmart to a great extent because to have a workforce made up of American workers is like herding cats. People have the most bizarre, ninny, and narcissistic expectations of work.

      And, to the discredit of Walmart and other gutless employers, they have fed into this victim and slacker culture. My friend told me of the several “levels” a problem employee would have to go through before they would get fired. It was easy enough to see that most of this stuff was all cover-your-ass stuff. But it’s also quite possible that enough of this weak, girly-man “Progressive” attitude has filtered into management itself.

      For me, an old-schooler, the only employee incentive program that is necessary was “Work or get fired.” Maybe I exaggerate a little. But this is the true essence of it. “Be productive or move along to somewhere else.” But after hearing long diatribes from my friend on the ins and outs of Walmart culture, it occurred to me that Walmart was more or less a Kindergarten culture. All of the rules, procedures, and provisions seemed as if they were made for children, not adults.

      And I deal with yutes regularly in business. And it’s clear that many aren’t learning even the basics of graphic arts, for example. And I’ve had this confirmed by those who have been recently in a design or graphics arts class in school. It’s laughable some of the tangential and irrelevant stuff they are teaching. Anything, it seems, but the essence of design and the technical stuff.

      Maybe Cato has seen something else. But if all that corporate America has to work with is the generally dumbed-down population — even out of college — then they’re more likely to have to be rigidly rules-based — hierarchical instead of a diffusion of authority. And this is only going to get worse. American Thinker has another interesting article the other day that said, in essence, “Go ahead and raise the minimum wage. All that will come of this is more automation and lost jobs.”

      American workers right now are barely able to think better than a machine. And if they raise the minimum wage, you can expect that actual machine will be the robots that corporate America needs in order to function, instead of the often mind-numbed robots of flesh-and-blood people. There’s just no way that I would want to run a business that had dozens of employees. And if I did, I would certainly find it more and more difficult to delegate authority. We speak of “common sense” as some kind of genetic trait. But it’s actually the real-world wisdom that is built up after an awful lot of trial and error — lots of failures.

      But kids these days get gold stars merely for showing up. We tend to do all we can to cushion them from the sting of failures. So I think we are helping to produce idiots, coming and going, moral and technical.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Mr. Kung, I think the answer to the rigid hierarchy of American corporations has to do with the fact that the education system of the United States is sub par, to put it mildly.

        Amen! What a big subject to cover. But I can tell you the destruction of the American public school system has been an ongoing project for decades. Grades mean almost nothing. A former college professor told me a few years ago that virtually all students bitched if they got a bad mark, which meant a B. They would lobby, bring in parents and do just about anything to get a higher grade. This is now known throughout America and as a result employers have no idea as to how educated potential young employees truly are.

        As to Walmart, all one has to do is shop there and it soon becomes obvious that many of the employees who deal with the public are totally useless. To pay them minimum wage is already overpaying them.

        This is one of the unmentioned reasons some of the large companies are pushing for expansion of work visas.

        On the other hand, employees have long been a pain for employers. When I ran the company in Hongkong I spent half of my time dealing with people problems. I came to the conclusion that with one employee an employer has two problems, with two employees four problems, with three employees nine problems, etc, etc.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I honestly don’t know how people run companies that have many employees, especially with the narcissistic, girly-man expectations they have now. I have another friend in the restaurant business. And he tells me that it is typical for job applicants for waiter or waitress to turn up their nose at minimum wage. He tells them about the money they can make from tips, but the expectation of these Princes and Princesses is to start at or near the top.

          The idea of having to actually work your way up, to apply a little elbow grease, is a diminishing notion. I see the moral collapse of America coming before the financial collapse, the one having to do with the other, of course.

          There are still young people with an attitude to work hard and to work their way up. Thank god that they have parents with the right attitudes. But I’m constantly running into the entitlement/dependent way of thinking. As I had mentioned before, I was standing in line at Subway not too long ago. And I was listening to two yutes talk about their jobs and job-hunting prospects. There was no talk of careers or job satisfaction. It was all about what “benefits” they could get. I felt truly disgusted at their attitudes and wanted to bleat like a sheep at them. But they wouldn’t have understood.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I can remember having a summer job at Louisville Cycle & Supply back around 1971 or so. One of my earliest tasks involved taking some sort of bagged items out of a shipping box and putting them into some sort of bin. I was out of sight of anyone, and went on doing my job. Later it occurred to me that this was probably the first time I had been completely unsupervised on a job that way, and I was pleased that I hadn’t tried to shirk. Until something like that happens, one never knows for sure.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I think the problem lies in the small doses. When one can only express oneself in 150 words or less (though I’ve seen examples of people who uses successive messages for longer ones), it becomes naturally to think that way. This isn’t good. There’s nothing inherent in social media that requires it to be so intolerant of dissenting views, but the fact that the social media are dominated by young people (who tend to be more self-righteous than the older generation) and run by leftists (who are morally opposed to dissent against them) makes them useful for the modern fascism.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I agree. I can’t think that thinking in sound-bytes (or text message-bytes) is good for higher cognitive functions.

      I would also say that our “social media” electronic gadgets induce narcissism. Yes, I suppose it’s fun to get a note from a friend. But people are addicted to getting a message, any message, from someone else. It’s as if they are alienating themselves from the human race by the trivialization of communication. And it certainly isn’t making them wise.

      The utopian vision of everyone being instantly connected to the contents of the Library of Congress and every play ever written by Shakespeare isn’t playing out like some thought it would.

  3. Anniel says:

    Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.” If a person takes no thought for their own thoughts, or can only think in sound bytes or slogans, how can they possibly live a “life worth living?” Curiosity really is basic to thought and speech, too, and we seem to be losing the very fundamentals of human life.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I was reading a bit through that linked article by Mike Saucier. It’s all rah-rah self-esteem stuff…typical of a seminar speaker. He’s quoting Tapscott:

    “We are going through profound change, and some people are more interested than others in learning about it,” he said. The most critical trait one can possess in this time of great and growing complexity, Tapscott said, is curiosity.
     
    The most inquisitive tech users are driving the deepest cultural changes, notably those in the Millennial or Net Generation. “Collaboration is changing everything around us, especially how young people interact with each other and the world at large,” he said. “The best way to understand that is to look at young people, because embedded in their culture is the new culture of work, the new culture of learning, the new marketplace and the new culture of collaborative intelligence.”
     
    “Evidence is mounting that young people can juggle multiple sensory inputs much more easily than adults. Rather than our children having dysfunctional brains that can’t focus, young people are developing brains that are more appropriate for our fast-paced, complex world.

    That’s all complete and total rubbish. It’s more a Scientologist’s view of reality.

    Note the buzzword “change,” almost an oracle of our time. Yes, change is happening fast. But part of our political problems have to do with “change for change’s sake.” We’ve become enamored with novelty at the expense of things that actually work.

    And rare is the child (or adult these days) who can sit down and read a book or watch a movie without frequently glancing at their phones or tablets. This chirpy author calls it an ability to “juggle multiple sensory inputs” but that is all just high-talking gibberish. The human brain, at its best, is about focusing on a specific task and doing it well.

    And it’s certainly true that being curious and interested in learning is important. But our addiction to electronic gadgets, TV, and other noxious aspects of our culture are about passive entertainment. Holding an electronic device in your hands no more makes you Steve Jobs than holding a knife makes you a surgeon.

    .“The post-WWII generation spent many hours a week staring at a television screen, and that form of passive behavior shaped the kind of brains they developed. Today, young people spend an equivalent amount of time with digital technologies—being the user, the actor, the collaborator, the initiator, the rememberer, the organizer—which gives them a different kind of brain.”

    Flattering one’s audience is generally good for readership. But this is complete nonsense. Having long been a fan of the Mac, for example, the ideal was that you could use these user-friendly computers to unleash your creativity. And some of us did that. I started doing graphics on Macs back in the 1980’s. And these computers, and the nifty software from Adobe and others, did portend a kind of Renaissance of creativity. That was, again, the ideal.

    But the reality is that Apple struggled to stay afloat. It wasn’t until they started selling passive entertainment devices such as the iPod and the iPhone that they hit the big time. As big of an asshole as Steve Jobs was, I like his initial vision for the Apple and Mac computers. They were to be simple, intuitive, and personal. That is, they were going to do an end run around centrally-controlled dumb terminals which were predominant at the time that the Apple II came out.

    And as far as I’m concerned, WordPress and my nifty 27″ iMac has allowed me, along with the collaboration of other like-minded writers, to take this technology and do something with it. And, as I’m sure Cato can attest, this stuff is not the passive type of stuff like Guitar Hero where you simply pretend at creating something. There’s real work involved, and sometimes a few lost hairs from a bit of hair-pulling when dealing with this hi-tech, bleeding age stuff. Here’s more Tapscott:

    “For teenagers today, doing their homework is a social and collaborative event involving text messages, instant messages, and Facebook walls to discuss problems while the iPod plays in background,” he said. “Already, these kids are learning, playing, communicating, working, and creating communities very differently than their parents. They are a force for social transformation.

    Jonah Goldberg calls Facebook “Satan’s Urinal.” And I can offer little evidence against this notion. If you wanted to purposefully dumb-down and trivialize the human mind, you would do all those things that this author says are just swell. This guy is in love with his buzzwords such as “social transformation.” These are, frankly, the types who are an active impediment to real knowledge and understanding.

    It is typical of the Left to be wholly enamored with the yute culture. Jonah Goldberg noted this in his excellent book, “Liberal Fascism.” Instead of praising yutes for being yutes, we must understand that they come into this world ignorant. It is they who must learn from us, and not the other way around. We can admire their yuteful enthusiasm, and maybe even their idealism. But without the knowledge, habits, and character traits of those who have come before them that led to success, merely flattering yutes with talk of how adept they are at multitasking (what we would normally call “frittering away time”) won’t get anything done but increase one’s naive paid seminar audiences at what I can only image is an over-priced motivational speaker.

    “People should use the new technologies as much as they can, for familiarity with the technology is a precursor for understanding it,” he said.

    This is more complete and utter nonsense. Both of my nephews are Ninja masters at various video games. But that skill, such as it is, is of absolutely no use in regards to understanding the software and hardware that go into making these games. I suppose a “precursor” for taking a trip off-planet is looking at the moon. But that’s a very thin precursor indeed.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Perhaps “focus” is another word liberals are redefining, as they do so many others. I recall that when I got into a heavy programming streak way back when, the printer could be clattering away right behind me (from someone else’s print job) and I’d hardly notice. That’s focus (and it didn’t happen all that often, because it required getting into a lengthy sequence in which I knew what I wanted to do already). But if someone mentioned my name within earshot, I noticed that quite well.

      As for multi-tasking, I do that all the time. Even as I go through the computer, I’m listening to the radio (Rush, mostly) or CDs (or MP3 images these days, at least until we get a working CD player) or watching TV (usually Fox News or a baseball game, sometimes a movie on TCM, occasionally something else). And while I’m at it, I’m either working on puzzles or reading. I can only concentrate on one of those at once, but I go back and forth between them.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I do a lot of that same kind of multitasking. Some of it is necessary, for the rest of the world doesn’t go away just because there’s some task you want to complete. And it probably is a talent of some kind.

        But I wouldn’t call myself doing three things at once, each a little half-assed, as particularly praise-worthy. I think this author just has never met a human thing he couldn’t praise as good. Me, I admit that multitasking is often necessary, even fun sometimes. But it’s hardly a good in itself in my opinion.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          A great deal of truth to that; undoubtedly in most cases I lose a bit of efficiency (such as forgetting precisely where I am in a book sometimes). I also think this is quite normal behavior, though someone who has little knowledge of life and other people (other than via social media) may not realize this.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            One of the insights I gained from Temple Grandin (a high-functioning autistic) in her book, Thinking in Pictures, is that humans, when compared to animals (such as cows), have a relatively narrow picture of the world. We tune out a lot of things that apparently animals don’t.

            This is an entertaining book and well worth reading. But the moral is, cows are even better multitaskers, I guess. 😀

            • Timothy Lane says:

              One of my basic principles is that everything comes at a price. Animals (certainly prey, and probably most predators) are always alert for possible predators/pretty. But humans are probably better at focusing their attention. A lot of this is a reflection of the difference between sight as a primary sense, and hearing or smell.

  5. NAHALKIDES NAHALKIDES says:

    They wanted 1) not insight into financial issues but formulas that would be installed in a computer and run with a minimum of understanding and 2) they were impatient with the pyramid-building approach to teaching, that is, they lost interest quickly with establishing a base of concepts then layering examples and insights upon that base. They wanted “facts” and “data” in discrete, bite-sized pieces, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, that they could then edit and arrange into a picture.

    How horrifying! (I see this passage caught Brad’s eye also). Ayn Rand would have recognized what she called “the anti-conceptual mentality” in (2), for learning very much requires the “pyramid-building approach” Cato apparently employed, since concepts are hierarchical and must be built up that way. It’s as if these callow Obama-voters were saying, “We don’t need to understand what we’re doing, just help us set up the machine so we can blindly pull its levers over and over. We don’t want the pieces to make sense as a coherent whole, we’ll just consider each piece separately and make whatever use of each we can.”

    Such are the wages of the Left’s control of our educational system.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      All they wanted was something they could program into a computer so that they could do what it told them. (Of course, people who feel that way — I won’t call it thinking — are natural followers of any Leader cult.) Perhaps computer users no longer know the famous aphorism, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *