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I take your point, but I would argue that it's not comparing apples to apples. Some time ago I read the Douglas Rushkoff book Program or Be Programmed, wherein he puts forth his view (if I may paraphrase) that this last communication revolution based upon the computer is a very important one, because now we’re actually getting to the point where the tools we are creating are starting to take on the characteristics of living things and the people who program these almost-living tools will continue to take on an increasingly important role. Conversely, in the years to come those who do not at least have a basic idea of how programming is done will be at an acute disadvantage (politically, socially, financially, culturally) much like the illiterate following society’s adoption of the written word.

Potential hyperbole and the fact that Rushkoff was talking about programming more so than general computer knowledge aside, I still think there's a relevant point there. I personally feel that giving up all pretense of needing to know how my computer works would put me at a far greater disadvantage in the coming years than were I to do the same with my car. My car is very useful yes, but I don't use it to view the world, my country and its politics, my culture, my future, my finances, and make decisions based on those views.




I think literacy generally is a very good example to study to clear up some widely held misconceptions about "usability". Usability should not be about making things effortless for idiots, but about improving the overall economics of using something - and literacy is far more economical than illiteracy even though an enormous up-front investment is necessary (learning to read and write is a lot of work).

Luckily, society (mostly) seems to have recognized that in the case of literacy and essentially forces everyone through it, instead of assuming that people are morons that can not be taught anything. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about a lot of recent technological development.




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