Tools and dumbing down...
Just recently, I commented on an article "revenge of the calculators". It talked of the dumbing down that all too easily happens when one relies far too much on their tools. Sort of like the numerous reports of people following their builtin GPS navigation systems into rivers, dead ends, buildings, sand piles and the like.
Kathy Sierra just wrote about the same issue.
I do believe tools are necessary - her analogy of tweaking postscript rather than using a word processor hit it dead on. You sometimes do need a tool to be more efficient - the inner workings of postscript are not useful to most people (glaring exception would be the people that make the tool that generates postscript). However, the cashier that cannot make change - or recognize when the machine is telling them to do something clearly wrong (because they plugged in the wrong numbers) is in a heap of trouble.
The hard part is finding the fine line between what you need to know and what you can remain dumb about. I struggle with that line we all of the time with the database. There is a lot that we don't need to know (it might be interesting to some of us - but we don't need to know some things). It frustrates me sometimes when people insist on learning internals - prior to mastering analytics, SQL in general, transaction semantics, physical and logical design, and so on.
On an unrelated note - I was stumbling around this morning and hit this page. For some reason I was reminded of being a kid and people would counsel you: "when someone does something bad to you, just breath for 10 seconds before responding - cool down first". I wonder if their 30 second advice actually works. If my experience with the typical end user is taken into consideration - there is 0% chance that it does!
The internet is just broken for me today. Hate those "unknown errors":
At least I didn't have to count to 30 for this one. I wonder of the advice to "please try again" is different if they encounter a "known" error :)