BLOGNAME: LOUDER THAN WORDSAn informal, stream-of-consciousness reflection on business ideas, events and issues in modern business, modern life and with some specifics to the web-software industry by Paul Tomori, Internet Entrepreneur
|Home is Where the Fundamentals Are|
By Paul Tomori
Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 16:58:24 (EDT)
A short time ago, I wrote about how our dis-enfranchised layed-off workers should pursue knowledge work in my blog post entitled Let's Call it What it is. Much longer ago, I wrote about loss of fundamentals in Western culture.
When I was a boy, I was always fascinated by friends who tinkered with things, yet I didn't do much tinkering of my own. My calling was in mind puzzles like the Rubik's cube and such. It always amazed me that with some wires and switches, one of my peers could make a buzzers and lights go off. One friend, Randy, had a "busy board" that really kept him occupied with the basics of electronics, when he was about 7 or 8 years old. I was filled with envy about that busy board, but more about the knowledge that Randy had to make it all work. Randy was recently hit by a drunk driver and is in for a long painful recovery. All the best old friend.
When we got older, other friends did a litany of car repairs from changing sparkplugs all the way up to overhauling engines. Mostly I stood by again in amazement, but near the end of my teens, necessity (i.e. no money) compelled me to start getting my hands dirty. Looking back, it was almost a rite of passage to adulthood here in North America, for a young man to change a leaky rad, replace a starter, tighten an alternator belt, change brakes, etc., etc., I did it all except for the engine overhaul and exhaust repairs which required heavy lifting tools or torches that were outside of my financial realm. It got to the point where I could perform with efficacy at the side of the road under a handful of fateful conditions that would present themselves to me... a fire under the hood that required a resourceful use of jumper cables to replace burnt wires, bypassing an oil cooling pump that had exploded, and much more.
That kind of hands-on-mind-on problem solving is utterly indispensable to my present trouble-shooting abilities. In my late 20's, the dreaded PC presented near-daily challenges and I could assemble and swap parts to keep my machine going all day long. Once again, necessity (crappy parts, and a horrendous program called Windows 95, along with again, no money), compelled me to do my own work.
Fortunately, those skills parlayed into being a server admin where I literally can address most hardware problems personally in our company's server farm. But it occurred to me. I haven't even looked under my hood (except to replenish windshield fluid) far less changed the oil in my car myself in years. And, looking at an iPod or my iMac, I don't even see how the damn things come apart. Thankfully, I am a little better off financially, so that part of necessity no longer compels me as much. And, the reliability of automobiles and computers (read: Macs) has also compelled me to keep my hands out of the messy stuff.
Is the next crop of young people being deprived of these "opportunities" to be challenged like I was just 15 - 20 years ago? Cars and computers were torn apart and fixed and in the process "reverse-engineered" in our brains so that we had a somewhat fundamental understanding of how they worked. Now, everything is just a blackbox. Get in the car, turn the key, go. Turn on the computer, surf a website, click some buttons. All the magic is hidden.
So, when I wrote that we as a society need to graduate to knowledge work, that wasn't to advocate an abandonment of tinkering. But, the opportunities for tinkering are fewer and farther between... and the distractions like video games and TV are that much more alluring for the young. As my little guys get into more sophisticated interests (i.e. beyond blankies and blocks), I am going to be pretty hard-pressed to inspire an interest in the fundamentals, but my incentive will be high. I want my kids to be as "hands-on-mind-on" as possible. It will serve them well, especially if the competitive climate rewards such skills - which I am positive it will.
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