Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Can the technologically illiterate govern?

Ever since the Industrial Revolution and the rise in power of the Producing Classes, there has been a growing awareness of the yawning gap between the worldviews of the Industrial and Leisure Classes.  To the technologically literate, the Leisure Classes usually sound like the ditz in Slap Shot who complains that her radio reception is poor in Charlestown (Johnstown) Pennsylvania because she is so far below sea level.

I must admit to having little patience with techno-cretins.  I try to be polite but there are just times when some little thing makes me wish I had my own nukes.  The best example comes from the days when VCRs became popular.  I would visit someone's home and there it was, flashing 12:00 at me.  For some reason, this drove me crazy because not only was it annoying, it meant the VCR's owners could not be bothered to learn how to make their machine record programs while they were out—which was the main reason to own one, after all.  They would rather have a flashing light in front of them than read the sixteen instructions needed to get their machine to function.  I actually told several people that I thought that anyone who wouldn't set their VCRs' clock was too lazy and ignorant to be allowed to vote.  (So now you know how I get the reputation for being a bit harsh.)

Anyway, it's nice to know Kovacs of Mozilla thinks that anyone who cannot communicate with the Internet is unfit to govern.

Mozilla CEO: 30,000,000 not nerds, get online or get out of govt!
Published: 12 March, 2012, 15:33

The increasing role the internet plays in life clearly shows that being familiar with the media is a sine qua non condition for policymakers, believes Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs.

The head of the top IT player was speaking on the impact of anti-piracy protests in January, which resulted in the controversial SOPA/PIPA bills being shelved. Mozilla was among the internet giants that campaigned against the bills, reports National Journal weekly.

"We enabled 30 million people to take action. Thirty million people are not nerds. Thirty million people are citizens," Kovacs said in a speech at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin.

The websites that launched a protest blackout against the bills “lubricated” communication between citizens and their representatives, he argued. Entertainment industry giants, who sponsored the bills, accused the tech sector of using fear-mongering through misinformation of the online community to drown the legislation.

Kovacs says the controversy was largely because too many people in power do not understand how the internet works, even though it has become a way of life for billions of people in the world.

"If you don't understand the internet, you don't have any place in government," he said.

He added that he is amazed when members of Congress express a desire to hire staffers who "understand" the internet.

"It's not something you learn, or hire someone for. It has to be the way you live your life," he said. more


  1. I never mill reading your site, and I have just added Elegant Technology to my favorites list as well, but I have to disagree with you here.

    For me, the reason to own a VCR, and now a DVD player, and the only reason, is to be able to watch movies which are not shown in local theaters. I never did watch much TV, and I refuse to pay the outrageous prices the cable companies demand for their inferior products.

    Furthermore, while I consider the internet to be a most useful tool indeed, it is not for Mr. Kovacs to tell me how I ought to live my life.

  2. I meant to say, I never miss reading your site.

  3. Yeah, I know—there ARE reasons besides time-shifting to own a VCR / DVR. But really, what is the reason to have a clock flashing at you when pushing a few buttons will correct this?

    Anyway, I always encourage people to read the manuals that come with the technology they choose to buy. That manual required a bunch of work for folks to write and they really want you to have a good experience with their product. So I read those those things, without fail, out of respect for the people who wrote them. I have NEVER been sorry I read one. And sometimes, there are these wonderful gifts included. Once while reading the software manual for Adobe Premiere, I discovered this utterly delightful discussion for why the North American TV standard (NTSC) is 29.97 frames per second instead of 30. It was on page about 425—which proved to me beyond any doubt that wading through instruction manuals to the very end was worth the time and effort.

    Glad you enjoy the site. Sorry if I occasionally indulge in Producer Class grumpiness.

  4. Mr. Larson, I take your point about reading manuals, which I now henceforth resolve to do. One could wish they were written in plain, straightforward English rather than a combination of technogeek jargon and incompetent translation from Chinese or Japanese. I never had 12:00 flashing at me because I am not interested in paying for electricty when I don't happen to be using it. The VCR was either being used or unplugged.

    I confess to similar grumpiness about people who can't or won't sew a button or turn up a hem on their kid's clothes or miantain a small vegetable garden.