Smart Devices, Stupid People

The Internet of Things, or IOT, is an extremely hackable network that connects everything from household appliances to cars. To me, it's the ultimate example of technology that, once created, just doesn't need us—and I fear that the more tasks that are routinely, magically performed for us puny humans at the touch of a button by "smart" devices, the less capable we become.

There is, admittedly, a logical schism here: those magical devices are designed by humans—the big-brained folk who figured out how to create them. But far more people use those devices than design them. Few have any real understanding of how smartphones, Nest, or even Amazon buttons work—I sure as heck don't. As I suppose there always has been, there is a highly specialized class of worker-bee intelligentsia who design the devices, and a drone class that uses them. So what's the problem?

I worry that as our skill sets become more specialized, we are less adaptable. As skills become obsolete—steam-engine mechanic, coal miner, shorthand-taker, Fortran programmer—those who rely on those skills either learn new skills or suffer the consequences.

But how many people spend their working lives performing esoteric tasks on a computer, then come home to passively watch TV, or semipassively play video games? How many are incapable of performing the simplest physical tasks: repairing a window screen, replacing a vacuum-cleaner belt, unjamming a DisposAll? Worse yet, how many know how to change a tire or jump a dead battery?

Such folks are helpless in pretty simple circumstances, and helpless people die. Imagine the sodbusters of the 19th century, who had to break land, plant crops, raise and drive cattle, and build houses, outbuildings, and windbreaks. If they weren't versatile, they didn't survive. As Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) wrote, in his novel Time Enough for Love (1973): "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Heinlein was often a misanthrope and misogynist, but in this instance I agree with him. Even within our little world of audio, there is specialization: analogophiles and digiphiles rarely explore one another's domains. I proudly resist categorization, being equally inept at adjusting cartridge VTA and setting up a LAN.

John D. MacDonald (1916–1986) was another shrewd observer of humanity, a Harvard MBA and WWII veteran who used his discharge pay to support his family until his short stories began to sell. He became an unlikely but prolific writer of hard-boiled adventure and science-fiction stories, often writing under pseudonyms to extend his reach. In 1982's Cinnamon Skin, his quixotic hero Travis McGee foresaw the tech revolution in the microcosm of a shopping mall:

Walking back through the mall to the exit nearest our part of the parking lot, we passed one shop which sold computers, printers, software, and games. It was packed with teenagers, the kind who wear wire rims and know what the new world is about. The clerks were indulgent, letting them program the computers. Two hundred yards away, near the six movie houses, a different kind of teenager shoved quarters into the space-war games, tensing over the triggers, releasing the eerie sounds of extraterrestrial combat. Any kid back in the computer store could have told the combatants that because there is no atmosphere in space, there is absolutely no sound at all. Perfect distribution: the future managers and the future managed ones. Twenty in the computer store, two hundred in the arcade.

The future managers have run on past us into the thickets of CP/M, M-Basic, Cobol, Fortran, Z-80, Apples, and Worms. Soon the bosses of the microcomputer revolution will sell us preprogrammed units for each household which will provide entertainment, print out news, purvey mail-order goods, pay bills, balance accounts, keep track of expenses, and compute taxes. But by then the future managers will be over on the far side of the thickets, dealing with bubble memories, machines that design machines, projects so esoteric our pedestrian minds cannot comprehend them. It will be the biggest revolution of all, bigger than the wheel, bigger than Franklin's kite, bigger than paper towels.

In the 36 years since that was published, much of the technology mentioned has become obsolete and has been replaced, emphasizing the speed with which change occurs.

Finally, Ray Bradbury (1920–2012) was a writer and dreamer who envisioned what would happen to all those sophisticated, magical automatic devices after the humans left Earth, for Mars:

In the living room the voice-clock sang, Tick-tock, seven o'clock, time to get up, time to get up, seven o'clock! as if it were afraid nobody would. The morning house lay empty. The clock ticked on, repeating and repeating its sounds into the emptiness. Seven-nine, breakfast time, seven-nine!

In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunnyside up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.

"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. "Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."

Somewhere in the walls, relays clicked, memory tapes glided under electric eyes (footnote 1).

Such visions encourage me to try new things in the spirit of G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936): "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."—Bill Leebens



Footnote 1: From the short story "There Will Come Soft Rains," 1950, later collected in The Martian Chronicles.

COMMENTS
dalethorn's picture

One of the fascinating things in sociology that can be seen aplenty in Stereophile comments by persons disgruntled by the current American regime (lookin' at you, Tony) is the attitude toward the H1B Visa issue - the big corporations who run everything want the skilled folks from wherever they can get them, and they bring them in to rule over the unskilled locals who play the video games and occasionally work the fast-food counters. There is no desire on the part of the powerful to educate or train the unskilled, so they simply go around them, while the disgruntled intellectuals complain about anything and everything but fail to grasp the bottom line of big business.

Indydan's picture

No political comments are allowed.

John Atkinson's picture
dalethorn wrote:
One of the fascinating things in sociology that can be seen aplenty in Stereophile comments . . . is the attitude toward the H1B Visa issue.

We generally don't allow political statements in these comments, but I'm making an exception in this case because if it wasn't for the H1B visa program, I wouldn't be here and you wouldn't be reading this magazine.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

supamark's picture

The problem with H1-B visas is that they are used (by everyone from tech companies to Trump properties) to import cheap labor in order to avoid paying skilled americans (who cost more, and are available in sufficient numbers). It's rampant in the tech industry, where people from poor countries are imported to displace americans because they're so much cheaper (lower wages, no benefits, etc). There's often one (or a few) highly skilled american(s) kept on to fix all the things the cheap labor screws up (as always, you get what you pay for). It's basically another way to "offshore", but without moving your IP overseas where it's easier to steal.

Edit: In JA's case, he's neither from a poor country nor in possession of a commonly available skillset (like computer programming, or janitors/houskeeping in the case of hotels).

spacehound's picture

...GOOD computer programming is commonly available you are very much mistaken. It's about the rarest and most needed skill there is. That's why there are so many very expensive 'screw ups' in computing. Proper 'programming' is far more than just coding.

dalethorn's picture

Good programmers are often prima donnas, looking out for their interests before the customers' interests. Many of them become so valuable to their employers that they get away with just about anything. And few employers take a close look at what's really going on inside the black box.

spacehound's picture

Most of them don't give a stuff about the customers either.

And your "so valuable" comment proves my point. Any idiot can be an accountant or in Human Resources. Accountancy is just simple 'by rote' stuff and HR don't usually actually 'select' the employees as they have no abilty to detect who knows his stuff and who doesn't. The selection in most companies is, correctly, done by the foreman and chargehands on the shop floor. And one of the 'shop floors' is the computer department.

"Don't look at what's in the black box".
Of course not, they can't understand it - employers are just a section of the 'stupid people'

tonykaz's picture

Our Executives should be men ( and some women ) of High Integrity.

I ( and most people ) are disappointed with the seeming lack of Integrity in : we all know who.

Tony in Michigan

ps. we need JA in the White House ( for example ), I'm even willing to bend the Birth Rule.

ps. to JA, this is as close to this subject as I'll go.

emcgala's picture

This is completely incorrect.
IoT, or Narrow Band IoT, runs on 4G (LTE) networks.
Therefore, the it is subject to all the security features, including strong encryption, protecting the radio channel between a device and the LTE network of today as well as 5G in the near future.
Hacking a communication channel between an IoT device and the network is as likely as somebody hacking your phone call or your data session when bowsing a webpage on your device.
Although possible in theory, this is near impossible unless it is subject to lawful intercept.

JasonT's picture

Here's the first 3.
https://www.iotforall.com/5-worst-iot-hacking-vulnerabilities/
https://securelist.com/iot-hack-how-to-break-a-smart-home-again/84092/
Oh! Look what's at Blackhat.
https://www.blackhat.com/us-18/training/practical-iot-hacking-basic-edit...
Hacking my phone calls would be fruitless for sure. But gaining access to my network would upset me.

Anton's picture

I enjoyed your piece. Thanks!

I like to look as skills as being even less specialized than changing a vacuum cleaner belt: In my perfect world, I (or my kids) could encounter a new thing and we'd be able to ask ourselves, "Well, how do I work this?" and then we'd be able to figure it out.

Thinking about Hi Fi, what gear do you think a sod buster would buy?

Bill Leebens's picture

Sod busters? A fiddle, of course!

stereomike's picture

I think we could do better - fairly negative assessments here. Some people can machine code, some are craftsman, and some simply work hard and want to enjoy things without knowing (i.e. what's in the Coca Cola) - for every old guy (I am one) wishing younger generation could fix "X" device without supervision, I see young people walking older folks through an app or program on a smart device at a frequency of at least 10 to 1 incidents. The return of vinyl/analog is a very good thing and may inspire the return of other hands on experiences.

tonykaz's picture

I think that we're well past the point of useful Life Skills Understanding.

Milton Friedman proved that no one person understands how to make a simple No.2 Wooden Pencil.

So:

I forgo learning how to play musical instruments and rely on Ted Smith, Bascom King and PS Audio to reproduce the full range of available music.

I use my time creating things that I've trained myself to be successful with. I live in a Civilized World of Specialists.

I think we all are long past the ability to feed ourselves, we can't live without McDonald frenchfries. for gods sake

Tony in Michigan

ps. set aside one pair of AN Loudspeakers for me, pleazzzzzze. ( presuming they can sound as good as Sennheiser HD Headphones, which no known loudspeakers seem able to accomplish )

Bill Leebens's picture

Reading the comments here reminds me of the grade-school game of telephone. I’m really not at all sure how what I wrote prompted most of these comments.

Oh, well—as long as they’re reading, right, JA?

tonykaz's picture

60 Minutes : Showing this weekend at a Computer Screen near you .

Tony in Michigan

ps. I realize that you guys at PS are the technological Pace-setters of established Audiophilia Today but even with all you are accomplishing, Audio technologies are squirting away from everyone. ( at a frightening rate of acceleration ) wooooooooooossssssshhhhhhh!!

ps2). My Almamater is one of MIT's Future Factory's Sponsors .

spacehound's picture

Although now 'semi-retired' I worked in the leading edge of the 'big' computer industry for over thirty years. (I have no interest in the 'political' comments.)
I was well aware of this knowledge gap between we 'computer people' and the general public though I didn't actually 'care' about it as provided one is on the 'knowing' side, which I was and still am, it greatly increases one's job security :)
Some of us even had informal discussions about such stuff in the local (UK) pub with farmers and other 'country' workers. Even they came to understand that not even the banking system, telephones, or the supply of spare parts for their farm machinery would nowadays work without the computer industry.

And we are now on the verge of a vast new leap. Genuine quantum computers are so close to production that they are already being tested by some of the USA's foremost universities and quite a large number of Fortune 500 corporations. Their 'size' has increased tenfold in the last few months and their operational reliability (time without needing human intervention) has increased from a few seconds to several months.
As they work in a totally non-intuitive manner, being non-sequential, unlike us humans beings, don't suffer from 'speed of light' limitations and so are already several million time faster than even the world's largest supercomputers this will increase the knowledge gap to a point that it can NEVER be reduced.

And of course this gap is not just in 'visible' computing, it's everywhere. I would not even attempt to 'fix' my modern car, (even though I know the theory of how it works) as it needs all sorts of special 'diagnostic' equipment to which I don't have access.

Bill Leebens's picture

I'm afraid I grew up with too much dystopian SF to be thrilled by this stuff.

spacehound's picture

But it was the 'eternal optimism' of writers such as Asimov and Arthur C Clark that caused me to join the computer industry.

I was fool enough to think it could, when sufficiently advanced, be a force for good. I was very much mistaken, it has driven the dystopia of modern society. And the quantum stuff will make it even more dystopian.

Do I care? No, I'm on the winning side and gave up that idealism long ago. And I'm not a part of the non-understanding 'lumpen biomass' that comprises 99% of the western so-called 'civilised world'.

Bill Leebens's picture

nt

spacehound's picture

I do run a course. And I assure you my fees are very reasonable :-)

It's the 'obfuscation' that gets up my nose. We are constantly coming up with 'gizmology' rather than true advances. Who really needs a 'connected' washing machine or light bulb?

And as for voice commands, trying to tell a machine that you want to play Ishtak Perlman/Israel Philharmonic's version of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth on JRiver rather than the low-res iTunes version by the LSO takes far longer than moving a mouse and hitting the left button.

This 'gizmology' is all so pointless.

And then there is 'AI'. We are MANY years away from even coming close to it. It's protagonists and the media are deliberately confusing 'expert systems' with AI.
Your supposedly 'intelligent' electronic accountant will just sit there and burn when the fire alarm goes off. How 'intelligent' is that :-)

dalethorn's picture

I tell Siri to play certain things on Apple's speaker when I stop at the store every so often. It's frustrating, because by the time you spit out artist/composer/title, if you get that far, you'll never be able to select a version.

Talos2000's picture

I once changed the engine, transmission, and steering box of my ten-year old car, which was a 1971 Wolseley Six. Today, I drive an Infiniti G35X, and you can't even change the spark plugs without dismantling almost the entire engine bay. I wouldn't dream of doing any of my own maintenance on it.

On the other hand, the Infiniti is now over ten years old and nothing, but nothing has ever failed on it. Unlike that ten year old Wolseley, which was all but worn out.

Bill Leebens's picture

...when I tell them about having to replace tires and brakes every year.

Whenever I hear an oldtimer say, "they don't build 'em like they used to," my pat reply is, "thank God!"

dalethorn's picture

As I ventured into full-time programming circa 1988, my main customer was the QA department who tested my code. Good quality QA tools for MS-DOS code were few and far between then, at least the affordable ones for a small company like ours. So I created a toolkit that would cover all the bases, and provide bridges between Quick-Basic (later Visual Basic) and various flavors of 'C'.

Rather than box myself into the world of intense and complex OOP code with all of its rules and properties, I created hundreds of modules that would be called from a command line (or 'shell' process), enabling real OOP without being painted into a corner as most programming suffered from. This is not just a tech issue - it leads to real-world nightmares...

The bottom line for our code infrastructure (and infrastructure is what it is) has not been merely bad code, but bad code design. The main reason we have our huge infrastructure problem goes back to corporations adopting computers and relegating virtually all decisions about those to the tech people. The executives at all corporations I've worked with didn't want to know anything except what came out of the black box for a given input. What happened inside the box, they didn't care.

The goal of programmers (i.e. Software Engineers) is to protect their own jobs. Team leaders will advocate for either the sexiest (complex) approach to coding, or the design that gets them the most prestige (and job security) in their industry. The concept of designing code to make it portable to other platforms, or future editions of the same platform, is pretty well lost on the software engineers.

Ktracho's picture

Although I designed and built my own computer before IBM came out with their first PC (yes, I am one of those H1B visa beneficiaries), I don't understand how my amplifier works any better than I know how my car works, but talking about life skills, maybe we should take a step back. Yesterday, I enjoyed some time playing some Beethoven and Rachmaninoff on my grand. I understand how the sound is made, how the action is put together, and I could tune my piano if its sound irritated me enough. (I need to tune it soon.) I do need to pay someone to adjust a damper that doesn't immediately stop the sound from one of the notes. Still, I get to appreciate not just how all the mechanics work, but how the details of the music are put together, the scope of possibilities for expression of the music, the demands placed on the performer, and how it actually sounds (not just how it should sound), and yet no electronics are involved, except perhaps inside my head! It changes your perspective when just listening to music.

jimtavegia's picture

That is because we have a failure of the proper understanding and integration of math and science, and we throw in buying critical things from the lowest bidder, quality be damned. Do we have the understanding to make things of quality anymore in the US? The will?

We have a $5,000 CD player that measure poorly and is sent back for the manufacturer to "see what is wrong". We have automobiles that fly down the highway and the ignition switch fails and people die and then claim there is no problem until the lawsuits start to pile up and the the government gets to the bottom of it and forces a recall. Our highways and bridges are falling apart and repairs take long periods of time and the inconvenience and time lost just getting to and fro immense. If these are not academic issues they surely are ethical ones.

2,000 to 3,000 teenagers die every year texting and driving, knowing it is illegal. People are risking their lives and livelihood by being so controlled by their cellphones. People can't even walk down a hallway without it in their hand. I will bet these same people have spent more on cellphones over the years than on a nice stereo.

Bill's writing was spot on as he has no need to apologize for anything he said. And, Mike Rowe is doing the absolute right thing by making people aware of where some real, good paying jobs are today.

People stopped learning to play the piano at the advent of radio when there was a piano in most homes. It was just too easy to turn a knob after that. I see the connection.

We could just ask Siri and she can tell us the truth. Why wouldn't we?

dalethorn's picture

Your post suggests that human nature is the problem. Not so. Human nature has always been with us and always will be. Intelligent infrastructure planning is what keeps order from turning into chaos.

jimtavegia's picture

The last I looked chaos is everywhere. You might have thought that after WWII we would have learned something. Am I regressing or is the world? We would rather turn our selfies into emojis. A great way to spend hundreds of dollars. It is not that Human Nature is with us, but do we have the will to change how we act and how we waste our time?

dalethorn's picture

You ask the right questions. I think we need to be inspired to do better, and if so, I wonder where it will come from.

jimtavegia's picture

Today, too many are not looking for leaders, they want someone to tell them they are OK, that it is the evil society that is holding them back as they never want to consider that THEY, themselves are the problem. Solutions are painful and most want someone else to deal with that inconvenience. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, "Government cannot allow it citizens to do bad things", yet that is exactly what we are doing.

Accountability is out the window. Being a soon retired teacher, our job now is to be a "game show host" and make learning fun. There is a reason we call it "school-work". You can skip over the steps of learning as what we learned yesterday was needed to tackle the harder work of today. We now have a culture of folks who must be entertained every minute and be paid attention to. My teachers or professors were not required to entertain me.

On any given Saturday or Sunday 100,000 people, and 40,000 during the week pay big money to watch 50-100 people do something on fake grass. We have become spectators and not doers. Turn a knob, rather than spend time learning to play the guitar, piano, or sing. We now want to listen to books, rather then read or write them. Of course I am part of this problem as I am now reading books for Audible for client/authors. Reading 300-600 pages with no mistakes through my recording gear is not easy. Attention spans have grown short. Play a sport...on my game station of course.

We can't even get up and put on an LP or a CD in our players, as we can just ask Siri to play us something. I do understand music servers for those with extensive music collections who want to gain access quickly as they are still interested in the highest quality, not just the convenience of it. I also understand the music industry's need for control of their catalogs with MQA, yet for 99%, the fact that it seems to sound better will not ever matter to them. So for me the possible MQA music I may buy will force me to get rid of my 3 USB 24192 DACS from Steinberg and Focusrite and get ones that will decode MQA, or not, as I could just settle for listening to the non-MQA bits or maybe I'll just up grade my turntable set up and buy more vinyl.

It is just tiring thinking about how far we have fallen. It is a very sad time for sure. I can't even watch the evening news with out becoming sad, so I stopped. We have too often used technology in the wrong way. IMHO. Oh, wait, "In my humble opinion".

dalethorn's picture

It's ironic that at the time when we have the greatest access to information, we seem to be less capable of using it intelligently. On a related note (no pun intended), while our music systems give us greater access to ever-better quality content, production of nearly everything - music and media of all kinds, is being automated to a greater degree. One of the things I value about Stereophile is the music reviews, particularly where they point up originality in the recordings, compositions, playing style, etc. People talk about compression and low dynamic range a lot here, but there's little discussion about automation. I have an idea (my humble opinion) that people's minds are being dulled as much by repetition via automation as by the lack of quality in the content.

jimtavegia's picture

and from that experience I gained an understanding of how hard it is to record live music. I have done a number of concerts over the last 10 years for our local university and I sing solos at church all the time and record folks at my home when they want (for free), but I practice over 10 hours per week, which most people won't do. It is this effort to do something well that is missing in the bottom 50% of students.

I now can appreciate all that JA does in his recordings, but the gear must be up to the task. My gear is mostly middle of the road quality with Yamaha and Mackie mixers, but I do have 15 very nice mics from Rode, Shure, Sennheiser, SE Electronics, and AKG for every purpose. 2496 is my go to rate in my four SD card recorders, one is a 6 track Tascam DR-680 MK2. Most music is burned to DVD-Rs with Cirlinca software.

I am always amazed at the man on the street interviews of college students who can't even answer general civics questions...who fought in and won the Civil War? Who is the VP? When Biden was they didn't even know him. Very sad stuff to me. Too many can't even add, subtract, and multiply. I am afraid we have reached the point were I see the glass half empty most of the time. It is time we got back to substance over style. And I agree that the music reviews in Stereophile are very important.

dalethorn's picture

Recording has always been a grand mystery to me. Audio magazine once featured an article by Ed Tatnall Canby ("Audio ETC"), recording the Ed Canby Singers on batteries using a portable Nagra recorder. He was worried that battery operation might be unreliable, but it was a Nagra after all. I tried to find recordings by the Ed Canby singers recently, but alas, unless you're lucky enough to have an LP, they're not available. And the group has dissolved.

I bought one of the Sennheiser Ambeo binaural headsets (same as what JA used to record demo rooms?), but they pick up too much room noise. If I have a tripod on which to mount the camera/recorder, then I can cup my hands behind the earpieces/mics and screen out most of that noise, however I suspect JA does some additional processing with his recordings to get the sound he gets.

On a related note, my favorite diner restaurant closed recently, but before it did, one of its regulars gave me a CD he burned from a dozen pieces his choir and organist performed in a large historic church - Bainton, Durufle, Howells, Lauridsen, Lavoy, Parry, Stanford, Wesley, Whitburn, etc. - the sound is decent, and especially the pipe organ. If some of the young people today could get their heads out of their cellphones for awhile and go meet some doers like that man, it could change their lives.

jimtavegia's picture

It was too easy for me to complain about poor recordings, so I took it up and found out how hard it really is to do a great job, but it can be done. I have bought just about all of JA's recordings and read all of his articles on how he did each one, the problems he encountered and had to overcome. Ambient room noise is a big one.

The more you go omni the more of the room you capture and generally all of the HVAC noise, plus patrons. But, if you go to live concerts it is all part of the experience. I try and get the HVAC systems turned off when I can.

My Rode NT-1A mics (3) have only 5db of self noise, about the quietest mics on the planet, so they can hear gnat farts at 50 feet. I use them to practice my singing as they reveal all my mistakes and make me work hard to get it right. After that, a Sennheiser 835 or my favorite, my e945 allow me to do a good job live. I also like my SM58 silver 50th anniversary mic as well. It is a great looking vocal mic. Hard to believe that mic has been in manufacture that long, but it has had more beer spilled on it than all other mics put together I would bet.

I am able to achieve a -80db noise floor in my home studios with just some affordable Furman filters and that is plenty good enough for me. I view it in my FFT program so I can see if the noise is frequency dependent, and especially power supply noise. It shows up easily in my DAW.

I have given some nice vocal mics to kids at school who want to sing to hopefully get them started and get their folks to buy them a little Yamaha mixer with some built in reverb and start practicing as until you hear yourself in a recording one has no idea how they really sound. That is when the work starts.

I do as much recording as I do listening anymore as that creative part has really caught me and I can thank JA for that. I don't criticize recordings much anymore as I now know what it takes. I hope to buy a Tascam DA 3000 DSD recorder by year's end to up my game even more. Then I can really leave a venue with all I can capture.

Jim

germay0653's picture

Come to your own conclusion.

Bill Leebens's picture

nt

germay0653's picture

ID + IoT = IDIoT! Most people are clueless as to the security issues related to the IoT. As you say, stupid people

Bill Leebens's picture

NT

Aaronajp's picture

I had quite a lengthy response here that didn’t post that I will not rewrite.

Aaronajp's picture

I am a long time reader and subscriber to Stereophile and have never felt the need to create an account until now. I can not begin to express how much I disagree with this post and it’s fundamental misunderstanding of how societies develop.

The goal of any society is specialization - people working at the thing they do best. You cite the 19th century person and how they would die if they didn’t know how to till the field, raise livestock and do the other actions that necessitated the furtherance of their lives. I ask you, can you or ANY of us claim to be able to today do all of those things? No, because we don’t have to and shouldn’t have to. Progress and technology removed the need for us all to HAVE to know how to do all of those things.

If we all devoted all of our time toward the aims you describe, I would not have a computer to write this response. You would not be marketing the fine products you are marketing at PS Audio and Stereophile wouldn’t exist because high end audio wouldn’t exist. All of these things were possible because advancements in technology allowed people like your boss to not have to spend his time in the field raising crops and tending to livestock, he could focus on what he loved and what he was good at, building fine audio products.

Additionally, you make note of people having to suffer the consequences as their jobs are made obsolete by technology. Those jobs only existed in the first place because of technology. There was a time where everyone did their own plumbing, auto maintenance, cooking and a host of other tasks. But as they began to specialize more and not focus on learning how to do these things, there arose industries of people who set to the task of doing the things the majority of us no longer do. Your return to basics advocacy renders many of those jobs obsolete even sooner, causing the harm of which you seek to prevent.

Now does this mean that many people are going to be screwed if we have a technological apocalypse or some truly horrific natural disaster or war that sends us all back to the Stone Age because everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but no one person can complete it all? Yes, but I would rather live trying to move forward than being scared of falling backward.

dalethorn's picture

I don't see the argument as "we should be able to do all of the old tasks", or even a broad variety of them. What we should be able to fall back on is at least one or two prior levels of technology, simply because the bugs and other issues in the current technology are never fully resolved and can hinder our ongoing efforts. This is true regardless of any disasters or other massive failures.

X