Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Back in the bad old days, when a problem arose that was beyond my ken or ability, I would consult the small circle of people I knew that were well versed in the problem I had at hand. Cousin Bobby, Uncle Cam (kind of funny considering he was an auto mechanic, but his name was Carmine, for which the nick name was Camanuccio or Cam for short) cousin Donna's husband at the time Donald or friends Chris or Phil that were auto mechanics too or Lenny Mastro, who was pretty good with motorcycles. As you can tell, my problems were mostly of the vehicle kind. For other problems, there others I could consult, although some of these people could do double duty. I learned a lot from these folks and in turn, I became an "expert" to others over time, although I don't know how effective I was. Sometimes I still channel Uncle Cam, sometimes I think to myself, what would Mark Zimmerman or Kevin Cameron do? Both of which have individually forgotten more than I will ever know. I imagine some might ask what would jesus do, but I don't think his expertise was cars, motorcycycles or any other technology produced since the second century.

The thing is, is that all these people have left my life in one manner or another. I moved from NY, so I don't see Cousin Bobby, Chris, Phil or Donald anymore. Lenny and Uncle Cam left this world all too soon and while I have met Mark Zimmerman, I don't move in the circles those two do, but I will read their work. So, what's left? Well, like everyone else in the world, I ask, What Would Google Do? That is to say, do a google search on the problem at hand. Something like this was incomprehensible 30 years ago, but today it's De Rigueur in troubleshooting of any kind. The thing is, sifting through the miasma of possible answers in search of some well earned wisdom is necessary as accepting the first or second solution becomes risky. Whereas there was immediate trust with friends you know, not so with the big G. Your Mileage May Vary as they say. Still, I usually can find answers to questions I have fairly quickly provided I ask the right question. Unlike your uncle or friend, Google still has a way to go in understanding what I or anyone else is trying to find. The better the question is framed, the better the results. Humans are better at reading between the lines than computers.

This of course leads me to wonder about some things though. If I can find the right answers easily, is that a good thing? Knowledge + Experience=Wisdom. Knowledge without experience or earned experience creates or possibly creates problem solvers with a shallow understanding of how things work. Call any help desk and you'll know what I mean. Experience is always the best teacher and nothing and I mean not even VR/XR can replace real hands on experience. I sometimes wonder what it will be like in 50 or 100 years. Will it be like Demolition Man where people have become feckless in their dependence on what is basically AI and automation through a centralized authority? There are days I feel like the Demolition Man, John Spartan, moving in a world of Raymond Cocteau's and Associate Bob's where I see the direct solution, barred by their bureaucratic fecklessness. On a troubleshooting level, it hit's home when I read about someone's dealership experience with a problem that a diagnostic computer can't find or fix. They don't teach old school troubleshooting anymore, at least it seems that way.

If you think I am some old codger that bemoans progress, I would tell you that you are wrong. What I really bemoan is the layers of abstraction that isolate people from not only how things work, but the lack of critical thinking and relationships with real things. Sure things have become so complicated in some circumstances that it becomes beyond most to understand all of something, but there's not as much desire to. Like a help desk. solve the problem and move on, reading from the script. What is learned? What is retained? What will be passed on? One becomes only as good as a given moment. As John Allison, my 10th grade Social Studies teach said, ideas have consequences. So do actions. I have to wonder who is at the wheel so to speak, in this company town of sorts, but that is a subject for another day.

So when you have a problem you can't solve, instead of typing in a question and hitting the return key, take a break, go back and rethink the problem. Ask a friend who knows more than you do. If they helped or not, buy them a beer or lunch. The human element is something that cannot be replaced. At least I hope not. What Would Google Do? I don't know. Don't care. I'll call one of my friends or family or just take a break and rethink the problem. There's always time to solve a problem, there's always time to learn.

Thank you for reading this blog.


Trobairitz said...

I agree with you. People are so quick to check for answers online they forget to check with their friends and family or puzzle it out on their own.

Those of us a certain age didn't have computers or the internet when in school, heck we didn't have cell phones. There was no asking the inter web, there was going to the library and hoping they had a book to teach you what you needed to learn, or just as you said, family a friends.

A simpler time it was.

Jim Lagnese said...

It was simpler in most ways, although the youth today have another abstraction layer or two that while it isolates them from how stuff is done, it makes some things easier. They don't have to think about the lower level stuff. My guess is that it will continue this way in the future to the point that maybe some day thoughts will initiate automated action.