Archive for June, 2009

Limits to Empowerment?

The other day I read an article in a well-known economic publication about how “talking websites” could empower the illiterate. I’m doubtless in a small minority, but I’ve been concerned for a long time about all this emphasis on “empowerment.”

I do tend to worry about universal suffrage when something like a third of the American electorate doesn’t even know who’s president — but then, again, that percentage has varied between 25% and 35% for at least 20 years, and we haven’t had any more political catastrophes during this period than any other, although those who disparage the previous president tend to forget that we had a few problems with a man named Nixon, and moral and upright as he was personally, a fellow by the name of Carter wasn’t exactly the most effective of chief executives… and even when suffrage wasn’t even close to universal, we managed to elect Warren Harding.

But… as a writer and as an individual who believes in both the written and the spoken word, I have to ask whether we want to grant more power to those who cannot master, even if through no fault of their own, half of whatever language their culture uses to bind that part of civilization together. Writing changes culture, and, based on history, it does so for the better. Exactly why, at a time when written skills are declining, when a smaller and smaller percentage of so-called educated individuals have actually mastered the written word [according to a study released by the Department of Education three years ago, almost 40% of individuals with advanced college degrees do not have the analytical skills to explain the arguments in a standard newspaper article], why do we want to grant more power to those who cannot write and write at all?

We’re already substituting test results for analytical skills in far too many school districts across the country. Newspapers are failing left and right because most people under thirty don’t have either the inclination or the ability to read more than a sentence at a time, let alone a paragraph, and before long those of us who can and would like some detail in our news will be relegated to perusing a relative handful of printed or subscription online sources, because, so far as I can determine, there’s less and less of a market for real news… just for sensationalism or for targeted “in-depth” rationalizations of what various groups of people already believe.

But then again, maybe we should expand the internet and website system so that no one has to master reading and writing — and add an amendment to the Constitution that no one can run for public office without being able to explain in detail and on the spot and in writing what the duties of that office are and why he or she would be qualified to hold that post. We could even return to handwritten paper ballots at the same time.

All you’d have to do to be politically empowered would be able to read, write, and think. Would that be so bad?

The Age of Unreality

All too many years ago, when my brother and I were growing up, my parents, and even my grandmother, piled on the aphoristic practical platitudes, such as… “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” “A penny saved is a penny earned.” “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “An honest day’s work…” With those platitudes came a no-nonsense attitude. My father insisted that we do the best of which we were capable — in everything from academics to athletics to what he termed “the necessities of life,” matters such as lawn and tree and mechanical maintenance, simple woodworking, basic electrical repairs, house painting… and the need to approach everything in a practical, realistic, and — most important — an honest way. For him, dreams were possible, but only if one prepared and worked hard and long to achieve them. One didn’t achieve success by merely wishing or saying that it would happen. Nor by cutting corners, either practically or ethically. In addition, we were not allowed to be bored. If any word even hinting at boredom even came up, various tasks were immediately assigned, monitored, and the results were inspected. At that time, this approach to raising children was not in the slightest unusual. It was close to the norm, and it led to a generally realistic outlook on life.

So… what happened?

Today, we’re weathering a recession created largely by incredibly unrealistic assessments of how housing and securities prices would perform over time. Never in the history of mankind have the values of real estate and structures continually appreciated upward for more than a few years, if that. So why did so many people buy into the unreality the values would continue upward at high rates indefinitely? Stock and security prices have fluctuated widely over time for as long as there have been such financial instruments. Yet some of the supposedly brightest and best minds in finance not only bought into the idea of continual rising securities’ prices, but they developed instruments that magnified through leverage both gains and losses — and never considered what would happen when the inevitable transpired. And, worse yet, for this lack of competence and foresight, hundreds of them were granted million dollar plus bonuses.

The same unreality permeates state and local politics. Through legislation and referenda, the federal and state governments promise more and more in the way of programs and benefits while the electorate demands — and largely gets — tax levels that are in no way able to pay for the programs people insist are their rights. California, to no one’s surprise, leads the way, and political experts across the spectrum [except, of course, from the far, far right, who are even more unrealistic] have declared the state essentially ungovernable — with a deficit approaching more than $50 billion and a legislature unable and unwilling to act because to do so would indicate to voters just how unrealistic they’ve been. Everyone wants to tax everyone else, but no one wants to pay more taxes, and no one wants his or her program cut or eliminated. And the simple, and unrealistic, answer is to tax the “rich” and to stop waste and fraud, never mind the fact that such a simplistic solution won’t raise enough revenue without grinding the economy to a total halt.

The polar ice caps are dwindling. Meltwater from the Greenland ice cover is at an all-time high and increasing annually. Ice sheets are melting and breaking off the Antarctic icecap in chunks of hundreds of square miles. Most of the glaciers in the Alps have either disappeared or melted back to a fraction of their previous size. The legendary snows of Kilimanjaro have vanished. Over the centuries, goats and overgrazing have turned the Sahara from an arid grassland into a true and total desert. The combination of disease, pollution, and warmer seawater has devastated the world’s coral reefs. Increasing temperatures have resulted in literal transformation of the mountain forests of the southwestern United States into high desert. Cattle and grazing in the previous century destroyed most of the grasslands in the Great Plains all the way from the Dakotas to Texas, changing the climate so much that we’ve experienced one Dust Bowl and are continually fighting against another, while the once massive Ogallala Aquifer is pumped dry. There are huge dead zones in the Caribbean, and areas in the Pacific hundreds of miles across where human floating trash clogs the waters. In less than two centuries, human beings have used up 30%-50% of all the oil created over hundreds of millions of years and raised carbon dioxide and methane levels to heights not seen in hundreds of millions of years, if ever. And yet… tens of millions of Americans, among them highly educated individuals, persist in the illusion that there is no global warming and that human activity has no significant impact upon the planet.

This unreality has infused the younger generation, in particular. Everywhere is the idea that any student, if she or she wishes, can do anything he or she wishes, and that each of them is “wonderful.” This unreality is boosted by: (1) the plethora of television “reality” shows that suggest that success has little to do with anything but ambition, desire, and immorality; (2) educational institutions that punish those teachers who actually assess student performance realistically and who insist on results; (3) the increasing reliance on tests that measure assorted facts and basic intelligence, but not the ability to think and learn; and (4) greater and greater reliance on pleasing parents and students than upon imparting skills and the ability to think. On top of these factors has come the change of education from a social good to a consumer good, where the consumer demands a specific product, and in the case of education, with the advent of student evaluations, eighteen year old students are telling seasoned and experienced professionals what they — the students — need to know when those students, and often their parents, almost always have no knowledge of the field. This is reality?

Now… I’ve seen studies that show the current “collegiate” generation is more “results-oriented,” but the problem is that getting results is difficult, if not impossible, when students have inadequate skills and unrealistic ideas about their own capabilities and about the amount of work it requires to accomplish anything of worth.

Distorting an old aphorism, Rome was not built by wishes and mouse-clicks…

… but it, too, fell when its people lost sight of reality and basic values.

The Impermanence Factor

For the past several months, some of the technicians dealing with my website have been having difficulty in updating the graphics on the rotating “carousel.” You may note that the problem has finally been addressed. I kept asking why there was such difficulty… and finally got an answer — a very simple answer, and yet a chilling one. The previous tech, who had worked with the web-designer, had departed for greener pastures… and had left no written documentation. If there happened to be any electronic documentation, no one could find it, and the techs who were trying to update the graphics were, as are many today, overworked and didn’t have the time to reverse engineer the system until recently.

This particular phenomenon isn’t limited to my website. The other day I was trying to install a piece of software for my wife and discovered a rather interesting situation. The directions were on-line. They weren’t simple. They wouldn’t print out. There was no way to keep a window with the directions and install the software. In the end I had to write them out by hand. Then there are the companies who have “solutions” to problems on-line, but seem to forget that those solutions are useless if you have problems with their website, even as you wait in a telephone queue for “technical assistance.”

These are all symptoms of a society that seems to think that electronic storage is permanent and that, because it’s electronic, anyone can access it and figure it out. Neither assumption, of course, is true, widespread as both appear to be.

We have books and records dating back thousands and thousands of years, evidence from other cultures and civilizations, written insights into what they did and how they acted. If we follow the trend — and go “paperless” as all the businesses urge us — what insights will we leave? We can’t even read computer records of thirty years ago.

This is even truer on a personal letter. My father kept letters he thought were memorable, and they’re still available, yellowed paper and all. Somehow, I don’t see much in the way of memorable emails being saved (if there are even such)… and there’s another factor involved as well. Most letter-writers, and possibly most writers whose works are recorded in print form, tend to write more accurately and clearly, almost as if they understood that what they wrote might be scrutinized more than once.

In my mind, all this leads to a number of questions:

Do disposable communications too often equate to disposable thoughts and insights?

Do impermanent and easily changed records lead to greater carelessness? Or greater dishonesty and fraud?

What exactly are we giving up for the sake of going electronic and paperless?


Science fiction has postulated the rise and fall of many civilizations, and the causes of those falls are many: warfare, famine, ecological disaster, energy shortages, internal collapse from overindulgence, conquest, pestilence, plague… and doubtless many others.The one cause I’ve not seen explored much is the collapse of infrastructure, and yet I suspect it’s the most likely reason for the failure and fall of a high-tech civilization. When most people talk about infrastructure, they think of highways and bridges, but infrastructure consists of far more than that.

The more people that live in an area and the greater the population concentration, the greater the infrastructure requirements, even in low-tech societies. In higher-tech societies, the physical infrastructure requirements pyramid. A clean and reliable water system, sewage and waste disposal systems, paved streets, roads, and bridges, dependable electric power and other domestic and commercial utilities are just the beginning. We also need redundant communications links, banking and financial systems, not to mention a system for maintaining law and order and adjudicating disputes.

The more infrastructure a society requires, the more each part of that structure has the potential for conflicting with the requirements of a another part, and the more of a society’s resources and effort that is required to keep all the parts of the infrastructure in good repair and operating properly. Also, the more susceptible each section is to damage and failure. For example, in the United States, the electric power grid is being stressed toward its limits, and electric power outages are already increasing. More powerful transmission lines and more power sources increase the vulnerability of the entire system to a host of problems, from solar storms to extreme weather, to simple wear and tear. Repairs or damage to one system can disable other systems, as when a backhoe used to excavate to repair a water line breaks a fiberoptic cable, or when a broken water main floods a subway tunnel, or…

The other significant problem with infrastructure is those aspects dealing with human interaction require acceptance and trust. Even the income taxation system in the United States is based largely on trust and the fact that the majority of Americans and/or their employers largely voluntarily submit their tax payments to maintain government. Likewise, most people obey the law without being forced to do so at gunpoint. Most civil and personal disputes are settled without recourse to physical force. And this is the norm in most countries. It is, however, not universal. No such trust and agreement exists in Somalia… or in other parts of Africa, nor in much of Afghanistan… and we’ve all seen the results. We’ve also seen the results in the financial sector in the United States, where greedy financiers betrayed the trust of investors on a massive scale.

We all know that physical infrastructure fails when it is not maintained, as in the case of collapsing bridges and deteriorating highways, but few politicians or other leaders consider the need to maintain the underlying trust that supports our society’s human infrastructure.

Right now… we need to shore up both aspects of infrastructure, or the science fiction that hasn’t explored infrastructure might end up being history.

The Uncounted Costs of Technology

In our fast-paced world, almost everyone praises technology, despite small gripes about occasional glitches. But, as I’ve noted before, technology is never an unmitigated blessing, nor is it nearly so cost-effective as its most enthusiastic supporters maintain.

The one problem that few commentators or analysts account for is the continual cost of the learning curve. Every time a computer program changes, those who employ it need to learn the changes and the additional applications, and seldom do either make the program easier or quicker. Every time a new computer application is developed and implemented, the same thing happens. Now… these are generally comparatively minor problems for the geeks and tech-types, but they’re not necessarily that minor for a large segment of the work force, even for high-level professionals, for whom technology is merely a tool and not an end-all and be-all.

I have a five year old computer. It works quite well and handles high-speed internet and the like. Already, however, I’m beginning to run into problems with other people’s information and applications, because my computer can’t take certain upgrades. If I attempt to install and use them, they freeze the computer. I’m certain that a high-level tech could fix some of these, or that if I wanted to invest a considerable number of hours in learning more about the programs and systems… so could I. Except… why exactly should I be faced with the choice of spending time or money to accommodate continual change? In practical terms, I have no choice… but it’s a cost that rapid technical change places on everyone not in the information systems field. It may place a cost on those people, too, but they’re paid for dealing with it. The rest of us aren’t.

In my professorial wife’s field, students expect more and more of the high-tech glitz in the classroom… and often refuse to study old-style recordings [in which refusal they are supported effectively by the administration’s pusillanimity and enthusiastic support of anonymous student evaluations] despite the fact that much of what the students need to study is not yet available in that high-tech forum… or is available only in formats directly incompatible with classroom technology and equipment, for which the administration does do not have funding to upgrade. So she’s spending much of her summer [totally unpaid] making conversions in order to be able to present material efficiently during the coming school year. She’s not a computer tech, and the learning curve is steep, but those who have the technical knowledge don’t have the musical knowledge, and even if she could find technical support, she’d not only have to pay them out of her own pocket, but would need to talk them through everything step by step.

In essence, the popular demand for only the latest technical offerings also imposes a cost on both business and education, a cost that’s not in the slightest paid by high-tech industry, but imposed willy-nilly on everyone else — and this doesn’t count the not-insignificant costs of applications rushed to market with flaws that cause even greater costs.

Do you suppose just a little bit more of a “slow and steady” philosophy might actually be more cost-effective?

F&SF, Reviewing, and Optimism

Recently, in several other websites and blogs, there have been comments about too much science fiction being negative, as well as too many reviews being positive. There have also been suggestions, if not recently, that the boom in fantasy is partly due to the negativity and lack of “soaring imagination” of current science fiction.

One of the problems in writing science fiction, especially if one wishes to be somewhat accurate as a writer, is that science fiction is supposed to be based on science. That means that conventional faster-than-light travel is improbable, if not impossible, and certainly not possible without the expenditure of vast amounts of energy. The same is true of such devices as matter-transformers and instant travel portals.

Also, in practical terms, in the future escaping or transcending the various messes that human [or other] civilizations have made is not going to be easy, and writing about doing so will necessarily reflect a certain gritty and sometimes pedestrian reality. Currently, Americans, in particular, even with the latest financial difficulties, now live in a society whose dreams are not based on the “work hard, persevere, and you will eventually succeed Horatio Alger philosophy” of earlier generations, but more upon reality TV and lottery instant wish-fulfillment. In addition, the “mouse-click magic” of computers provides another instant escape mechanism. Given these background factors, any literature or other form of entertainment truly based on science and hard reality is going to appeal to a far smaller audience than one based on magic.

Now… there are different ways of approaching magic, as all widely-read followers of fantasy know, and some fantasy authors, as do I, take a more realistic approach to using magic. I believe that magic, if it did exist in human societies, would be used as everything else humans do — as a tool. In such societies, reality does tend to intrude, because magic usage is subject to economics and all the other nasty implications of human society. And, in general, authors who approach magic in this fashion don’t sell as well as those who are more wish-fulfillment and “isn’t this neat”-oriented do.

As for the business of too many, too favorable reviews… for the most part that’s merely sour grapes on the part of the crew that, in general don’t like anything except that narrow spectrum of books that is their special province or those who prefer nitpicking books to death rather than enjoying them. There are, I’d be the first to admit, a very few reviewers who apparently never ever read a book they didn’t like, but that’s still preferable to the even smaller number that never read one that they couldn’t find something wrong with. Most reviewers are very much aware that, in today’s information explosion, most readers are far more interested in what they might find interesting to read than in what not to read. So… if they find a book really terrible, they don’t waste space on it. I can also tell you, from personal experience, even with books that sell well and get generally favorable reviews, there’s still no lack of reviews incorporating nitpicking, nastiness, lack of understanding, and parochialism… and frankly, for the most part we don’t need them, not when only a fraction of the fiction published, even in the F&SF community, is actually reviewed.

A Golden Age for the Creative Arts?

For every J.K. Rowling or Robert Jordan, for every Andrew Wyeth and Thomas Kinkade, there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of writers and artists with skills far above those of the average educated individual who cannot make a living at their art. For every Pavarotti, there are hundreds of tenors with good, if not great, professional voices whom no one will ever hear except in small opera houses or singing restaurants — if even there. For operatic sopranos, it’s even worse, and how many struggling writers have had their hopes dashed in the past year?

I’m not talking about people who “want” to be writers, singers, composers, and artists, but about people who’ve devoted years to education and training, not to mention more years underpaid or unpaid work in their field.

Now, there’s a feeling among some in these fields that there once was a time when artists were more respected and compensated for their expertise. I’m not certain when this “golden age” happened to be, because in the early 1800s, the print run for a wildly popular book was something like a thousand copies, and most successful writers came from financially secure backgrounds that allowed them to write. Most of those that did not, such as Keats and Poe, struggled with poverty and illness their entire lives, despite a certain amount of popular acclaim. In the late 1960s, Isaac Asimov [as I recall] calculated that there were only about 50 F&SF writers who supported themselves entirely on their writing. Recent figures published by various sources suggest that the number of overall fiction writers in the U.S. who can do so today is somewhere around 900, with a range of 400-2,500 cited.

The market for composers has never been wonderful, and in the eighteenth and nineteenth century only a handful of composers and musicians made more than survival wages — and those only if they had wealthy patrons. Mozart was dogged by financial problems his entire life. Bach supported himself as a church organist, and today almost all modern classical composers are either academics or support themselves in other music-related specialties. Even in the pop music field, songwriters like Willie Nelson and Barry Manilow became singers because they made so little from songs they wrote that made the singers millions.

Van Gogh, whose works now fetch tens of millions of dollars, never sold a painting in his own lifetime, and historically, most painters supported themselves by doing portraits, a practice that dwindled dramatically with the introduction and growth of photography.

In writing, the numbers are fairly clear. Comparatively, very few writers finish and sell more than a book a year. In the F&SF field, standard royalties start at ten percent for a hardcover, but a “successful” hardcover must sell a minimum of 4,000 copies and 30,000 copies subsequently in paperback. According to publishing figures, something like two thirds of all books published are not “successful.” But let’s say the struggling author manages to be successful and sells 5,000 copies at a hardcover price of $24.95, and a year later, 35,000 copies in paperback. That’s $12,475 on the hardcover [not deducting the 10-15% to the agent] and approximately $14,000 on the paperback. If this writer can manage to keep putting out a book a year at the same level he or she might make $25,000 a year out of combined paperback and hardcover sales. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, because if the writer’s sales don’t increase above the minimally profitable level, the publisher won’t buy the second or third or fourth book. And yet… looking at the comparative numbers, it’s likely that the past thirty years through the present are possibly the best time for writers in history.

A golden age for the arts? Like many myths… it’s just that.

The Unrecognized Malthusian Mistakes

Most people know the Reverend Thomas Malthus as the English clergyman and economist who wrote The Principle of Population, a work that went through six editions between 1798 and 1826 and that made the case that “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.” In the more than two centuries since the publication of Malthus’s first edition a raft of biological and social scientists have attempted to refute Malthus’s basic theory, pointing out as the enviro-sceptic Bjorn Lomburg did, that food production has always increased faster than population growth.

For the moment, these “skeptics” have been correct. If population growth continues, in the long run, they will all be wrong. Why? Because even if our vaunted technology gets to the point of turning all matter and/or energy into the food and support necessary for human existence, the amount of matter on the planet is indeed finite, although in practical terms, it’s far more likely that other aspects of civilization will collapse first, leading to a reduction in food supply… and population.

The larger mistake in dealing with Malthusian economics, however, lies in the failure of Malthus’s critics to understand why Malthus did not seem to be correct in his own lifetime, or even in ours. Both Darwin and Wallace read The Principle of Population, and both commented to the effect that his work applied directly to the “natural world.” What they meant was that, for example, there are always more prey than predators, because if there aren’t, predator populations crash. The same is true of herbivores. One of the problems the giant panda faces is that it’s a very picky eater and there is only so much of the bamboo it eats within its range, and that range is decreasing because the human population has been encroaching.

In overall terms, what the human species has done for roughly the last 8,000 years is to employ technology to transform the entire world ecology into anything but a “natural” world. Currently, there are between one and one and a half billion cows in the world, 15 billion chickens, 700 million pigs, over 100 million horses, mules, and donkeys, and close to half a billion domesticated turkeys and geese. None of these animal population levels are anything close to what these species could maintain without extensive human effort, and the impact of these animals is anything but insignificant, considering that, as just one example, a single cow produces 250-500 liters of methane every single day, and that methane tends to last in the atmosphere for up to 100 years. Fertilizer run-off from the Mississippi River has created algae blooms and large dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico.

Years ago, when I was working at the EPA, research studies showed that the pesticide toxaphene, used primarily on cotton crops in the southern United States, was appearing in the tissues of northern arctic mammals — not birds who might have flown over or through the USA, and in animals who did not prey on such birds. While its use is now banned in the United States, the world-wide spread and bioaccumulation is indicative of just how much human technology has changed and modified the planet.

This human-created “ecology” is not stable, nor can it be maintained without enormous investments of energy, resources, and effort. So, while the human species has been able to “thwart” Malthusian principles for two hundred years, the real question is not how and why Malthus was wrong, but for how long we will both allow unchecked human population increases and increasingly artificial ecological manipulation… and at what cost.

The Illusion of Learning

All too much of what passes for education today consists of curricula and courses designed to create the illusion of learning.

There’s also the difference between skills that are useful for additional learning and additional learning itself. For example, the skill of reading is relatively limited in its application if the “reader” only applies it to signs and labels once he or she leaves high school, but vital to someone who wants to be a high level professional. One might even say that reading skills convey a certain illusion on learning on the sign, label, and headline-only reader.

Likewise, students who are passed on without learning skills, or reading and learning the course material — and there are literally millions of them — are given the illusion of learning. This creates anger when they can’t find or keep jobs because they don’t know enough, or when their employers find that various rules require convoluted and time-consuming processes to fire them.

Another illusion of learning is the idea that the purpose of education consists largely of having the skills to find information. Being able to locate information is not the same as knowing it, or knowing what it means, or the implications behind the facts, or what led to those facts or what may flow logically from them. Merely finding information doesn’t mean that the finder can use such information. In many professions, actual physical or specific mental skills are also required. Reading about a complex medical procedure doesn’t provide the necessary skills for a doctor to operate and accomplish that procedure. Often, even practicing that operation doesn’t provide enough knowledge for a doctor to deal with more complex cases. Being able to look up economic statistics, or sales figures, doesn’t provide the expertise to analyze them and to project likely outcomes for a company or a government.

And in some cases, failure to learn basic and simple skills that seem unnecessary in our computerized and high-tech world can create problems for the individual and those around them. For example, the child who doesn’t learn multiplication and division tables is going to be handicapped all his or her life, because most of those children won’t have the basic tools for mathematical estimation as adults. I can’t even count the number of times someone has entered the wrong number or entry into a cash register or computer and insisted to me that the result is correct — when it wasn’t. Why? Because they couldn’t estimate the range of the probable result. In cases such as medicine or pharmacy, an error such as that can be life-threatening. In business, too many errors of that nature can lead to lost revenues… or lost jobs.

Once upon a time, students had to learn to memorize poetry and passages from plays. This wasn’t thrust upon students as a form of torture, but to provide them with hard-wired, learned passages as examples of proper use of language. In addition, students were required to write far longer papers than they now do, and at earlier ages, and those papers were graded with liberal amounts of red ink. The loss of practice in writing, especially the loss of directed and harshly corrected writing exercises, and the loss of all memorization of good literature for students corresponds rather directly with an increasing loss of writing skills. Merely being able to read individual words does not correspond to being able to understand or to write.

In my wife’s field — vocal music — all too many students fail to grasp the idea that successful singing is the combination of intellectual understanding and trained muscular and musical coordination. They don’t understand that their muscles have to be trained to get results, and that requires practice of specific techniques in specific ways. They also don’t understand the need to recognize the muscular sensations associated with proper singing and to learn to replicate those sensations on a reliable and continuing basis. To sing correctly, one doesn’t just memorize the words and “sort of” follow the melody. A good singer needs to know the rhythm well enough to beat it out without looking at the music, to know the actual meaning of every word, even if the song is written in a foreign language, as well as explain what the song is about, and be able to sing the melody using a single syllable [such as “la”]. Anything less is merely an illusion of having learned the song.

The recent financial crash was due in large part to reliance on the models of a few people without those who were responsible for decision-making learning or understanding the implications of those models, combined, of course, with a large amount of greed that make it easier not to learn. Interestingly enough, most of the regulators responsible for overseeing the market did happen to come from the generation that has been shorted on basic learning. And they didn’t bother to listen to, or learn from those few older heads in an industry dominated by the young.

I could give more examples, but that would be redundant. Every truly skilled occupation requires that type of in-depth learning… and it’s the kind of learning that’s becoming rarer every year because too much education consists of learning facts and where to find them, and too little consists of truly learning and understanding anything in any depth.