The Magic Mouse

In the past, I’ve commented about the lack of appreciation and gratitude that permeates our society today, but there’s another factor behind that lack of appreciation that, frankly, I hadn’t considered.  What is it?  The magic mouse, of course… and I’m not talking about Disney creations.

The biggest unforeseen and unanticipated aspect of the computer and high-tech society is, I believe, the way in which it conceals the amount of work required to accomplish anything, not to mention the way in which it has shifted work. What exactly am I talking about?  Take a modern animated film, for example.  In the days before computer graphics, artists literally drew each cell, each slightly different from the previous cell, to show motion when filmed at the proper number of cells per minute.  The amount of physical work required was prodigious, even for a short film.  Today, a handful of people do the same amount of creation in a fraction of the time, and everyone takes it for granted, and dismisses it.  Except… there’s still a great deal of work being done, but much of it is behind the scenes, lying in the work in designing and building the computer hardware and software… and this is work that is seldom discussed, understood, or even appreciated. 

Once upon a time, I did economic analysis work, back before computers could crunch the numbers instantly and print out all the data, analyzed and presented under different scenarios.  Yet, more and more I find that too many “analysts” don’t even truly know what the numbers are or what they might portend… because they haven’t “worked” with those numbers.  They have no “feel” for the numbers, and because they don’t, they have no appreciation for those analysts who do… and have worked to understand what the numbers really mean.

Students, as I’ve noted more than once, more and more equate the ability to find information with the ability to understand what it means, and when asked what it means generally simply repeat what someone else, online, says what it means.  This has two negative impacts, first, the denigration of the effort needed to find and present information, because it’s available to them with a few clicks of the magic mouse, and, second, the reluctance/inability to think about that information in any deep way because of the myriad of interpretations already available.  Instead of thinking, they resort to magic mouse multiple choice among the options available on the internet.

Instead of appreciation for all these technological miracles, more and more there’s a range of feeling from acceptance to dissatisfaction, and, more important, it bleeds over into everything else.  There used to be employers who appreciated good work;  now employees are viewed more like computer aps and software – disposable and replaceable with the latest version.  Students and parents used to appreciate teachers; and teachers got notes of appreciation from students and parents.  Now all the teachers get is complaints. 

While there are many factors behind this change, the one that I don’t see being addressed is that of the “magic mouse,”  the idea that anything just takes a click of a mouse or a finger across a smart-phone to get the job done.  When everything is perceived as easy or almost effortless, there’s little reason to appreciate anything – and all too many Americans don’t.

3 thoughts on “The Magic Mouse”

  1. Grant says:

    “When everything is perceived as easy or almost effortless, there’s little reason to appreciate anything – and all too many Americans don’t.”

    You nailed it. Because the consumer has to do so little work they have difficulty comprehending just how much work went into making everything so effortless for them, and therefore cannot appreciate that labor. One more problem with prosperity, success truly does try the character of a man worse than failure.

  2. Bob Howard says:

    Absolutely spot on. It’s also evident in the derisive dismissal of “old media” news reporting by bloggers and other on-line “journalists.” Some actually state nonsense like “the old media is useless and outmoded–I’m on my computer reporting and commenting without the need for their antiquated approach,” totally missing the enormous effort and expense involved in real original reporting, particularly long-term investigative reporting.

    Where will they go for their info when the dinosaurs go out of business? Where will we go when the only source of news is an idiot with a computer and no real knowledge or experience with the world and how things work.

    Only tangentially related, but I was a Russian specialist in the Army, with over five years of specialized training and education and years of experience, but every time I and my colleagues would present an analysis to senior leadership, there was always an aspect of “geez, I know as much about Russia as this guy…or a Palinesque thought of ‘I can see Russia from my house!'”

    The same sort of perspective is at play here, when everyone with a computer feels they are an expert on any given topic because they can look up something and feel they understand. True understanding of complex ideas and issues requires far more than most of them understand or are willing to contemplate.

  3. Andrew says:

    I work in law enforcement intelligence and the comment “more and more equate the ability to find information with the ability to understand what it means” rings that bell so hard.

    More and more often I see analysis consisting purely of data accumulation, and it makes me despair.

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