Living the Technologically Illiterate Lifestyle

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Rockwell is right; I really liked this piece.

The web is not a perfect world. It allows sin, vice, degradation, extortion, and every manner of evil – but every bad thing you can name is matched by a more powerful good thing: faith, reason, learning, art, scholarship, and the possibilities of peaceful human cooperation, are all on display as never before.

As in the world, there is crime on the web. But it is mostly managed, discouraged, deterred, and otherwise contained through market innovation, not the police power. The web isn’t perfect, but it seems to call forth the best competitive and cooperative spirits in all people to yield something that benefits everyone.

Given this near-perfect market setting, we should not be surprised about the ubiquity of libertarian ideas online. That’s a natural result of the libertarian method of the medium itself.

I am amazed at the number of folks who still live in Internet Haven’t-Got-A-Clue Land. Not too long ago, I was trying to explain to someone how to download AOL Instant Messenger, that marvelous tool, and it turned out not going anywhere. And a question came back to me: what is a browser?I thought this stuff was so intuitive that it didn’t need explanation. But somehow, people still don’t get it. In fact, that’s the greatness of Windows (or the Apple OS): it’s purely intuitive. It doesn’t have to be taught to anyone by someone else. You sit down, you explore, and things just get accomplished. Lew makes the point that the new illiterates are going to be those that have no web/computer savvy, and he’s exactly correct.

In terms of academia, the Big Kahunas nowadays are not the snobbish academics that turn their nose up at popular writing, and write only obscure, never-read journal articles and publish in “acceptable” newspapers. The new academic stars are guys like this and this and this, who dare to make use of the Internet, and write popular articles and blogs to convey information to real people in real situations, in addition to the scholarly stuff. I have much respect for scholars that have been there, done that in the academic world, and now place themselves in the popular writing medium where they are truly needed (and actually read).

People, however, still brag about how they are “technological illiterates,” as if they are so accomplished elsewhere that this is somehow excused. I hear this all the time. If you can barely get through email, can’t find things on the web, are clueless about downloading music and audio, and heck, can’t even use the various and powerful utilities that computers and the web have to offer, you are among the new generation of illiterates. In fact, it seems to me to be necessary to have some basic knowledge of html as well.

If the world of creative software, web tools, plug-ins, special utilities, CD burning, wireless technology, PDAs, etc. is unknown territory to you — why? You are already behind, and it’s time to catch up. It is all free knowledge. Just a little opportunity cost.

10:43 pm on February 18, 2004