Monday, November 01, 2010

Fear of technology

Over at The Register, a technology recruiter gripes about the poor quality of Computer Science graduates. Then the money quote: "If you haven’t trashed your computer while doing something questionable, then you’re not a computer scientist – you’re just an arts grad who didn’t get laid."

Indeed! I trashed my computer this weekend -- *on purpose*. Not before I made a current backup, of course, but I wanted to try out a new operating system. So I did. That's on my big desktop system, of course, not the Macbook that I'm typing this on, but even when I was a youngster in college who only had the desktop I wasn't shy about trying out new things on it. That's why I have a career today -- I was experimenting with the software that runs most of the Internet now back when it was just some hackerware downloaded off the then-nascent Internet.

But even here in the 'States, the majority of kids graduating with Computer Science degrees have just done coursework on school computers. They've never trashed a brand-new Windows install to check out the latest Ubuntu. They have no idea of anything to do with computers other than what little they needed to know in order to get an "A" on tests. They are, in short, lame, in Comp Sci because they can't spell well enough to be an English major and don't get laid enough to be an arts major and aren't good enough at bullshitting to be a Business major. Both they and my elderly mother view computers as magical things which must not be fucked with or they'll break and be unfixable, rather than as technological objects which people designed and built and which ordinary mortals can swap parts into or re-install at will if something breaks. Indeed, the only difference between them and my mother when it comes to real-life computer skills is that they don't have Medicare if they get sick, thanks to the Democrats being just as lame.

We're back to the problem I talked about earlier, where large chunks of the population view technology as magic, rather than as something created by humans. Because it's magic, it cannot be understood or fixed if it breaks. Thus in terror they refuse to take it apart and examine the pieces, because they might let the magic out and it might do bad things to them. But of course there is nothing magic about my home computer. It is an Antec case with a Corsair power supply, an Intel motherboard with 12 gigabytes of Corsair memory and a Core I7-950 processor, an nVidia graphics card, a pair of 2 terabyte SATA drives, a DVD-R/CD drive, and a few more drives that aren't plugged in right now because those are what I use for experiments. The operating systems I run on it like Linux, ESXi, Citrix XenServer, etc. were downloaded for free off the Internet. None of this is exotic. Anybody can walk into Fry's Electronics or click on the web site and buy every single piece that's in my computer, and click on Internet sites and download and burn CD's or DVD's of every single thing I have installed on it. There are no white-coated gatekeepers stopping you. Yet the majority of even Computer Science graduates flee in abject horror at the thought of understanding technology well enough to do even a simple thing like a motherboard swap...

And so societies crumble, not from war, not from strife, but from utter stupidity as the population forgets how to build the technology that keeps it going. Rome fell in part because the infrastructure of empire -- the roads and aqueducts, the dikes and dams -- no longer were maintained, thus eliminating their advantages in terms of agriculture, sanitation and mobility over the "barbarians". I don't see current civilization doing any better if the current trends keep on keeping on.

-- Badtux the Technology Penguin


  1. Wow, and I thought I wasted my 30s fiddling with Macs & PCs. Which I pretty much did, and so (regrettably) I'm everyone's tech support. But at least I don't need to call someone when a piece breaks. But then I also have a sideline in satellite TV (the big dish kind) which used to go nicely with the PC, until new tech kind of superseded it. You can watch anything on the internet these days.

    In short, fiddling with tech stuff is 2nd only to reading books for non-sex pleasure. I wouldn't care to have a PC on a desert island.

  2. @Badtux, Well said, well said indeed.


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