Yes, Danielle George, Young People Don’t Know How to Fix Anything

I read an article today from an engineering professor in London that proclaimed “people under 40 expect everything to ‘just work’ and have no idea what to do when things go wrong.” As with anything which maligns any generation, her comments have been met with anger among those in the generation and praise with those over 40.

Her solution: she’s leading a lecture entitled “Sparks will fly: How to hack your home” with ideas likes using a magnifying glass and shoe box to turn a mobile phone into a rudimentary projector and how to use tin foil to make too small batteries fit correctly. Her hope is that it will inspire people to rethink how they can use their household items.

But, I fear the problem, as well as the solution, is much bigger than tin foil and batteries.

With phones that won’t let you replace the batteries, cars with parallel parking assistance, and devices that can control almost every appliance in your home – can you blame us? In a world where almost everything we use is “smart’ — we don’t have much choice but to take it to an expert or replace them. Our technology is so smart, we don’t have to be.

The same problem we face in our economy is happening with our knowledge —  the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The smart are getting smarter, and everyone else is just getting…dumber. I’ve written in the past that we’re turning into the movie Idiocracy. And three years after writing that article, I’m convinced it’s true — with one caveat.

The rise of smart everything is making the need for extremely intelligent people who know how to ideate and create those smart things. And anyone who doesn’t have access to the so-called “black box” is at the mercy of those who do. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There are millions of websites on the internet. Why? Because developers created web content management systems, like WordPress and Joomla, so that the rest of us could focus on using the websites to sell products and let our voice be heard, and not have to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc.

However, when these highly skilled intelligent individuals create a phone in which you can’t remove the battery, and all you have to do is tap an app to delete it, we’re now getting into Idiocracy territory. It’s the intellects vs. “the others”. The makers vs. the users…and ultimately the haves vs. the have-nots.

How do we overcome it?

I don’t see anything changing in the near future, so my advice is to become a “have.” If you’re still in grade school, consider majoring in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degree. Already graduated from college? There are resources, like edx.org, that provide education in topics like computer science for free.

Make 2015 the year you become a “have.”

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