Originally Posted by DocNo42
It's not an issue of complexity, because you are right - it is no harder than a file cabinet.
It's a conceptual issue. I can't explain it, but I see it all the time. My own father - a very smart man. Self-made, very successful, financially well off, wrote technical reports for years on complex engineering projects - is even published. My parents built their own house, out of pocket, doing the vast majority of the work. Clearly these are people capable of logic, independent thought and organization.
But give them a computer and it's like that part of their brain switches off. Give them instructions and it's like there is this mental block. I ask them how is me giving you three things to do on a computer different then giving you a three part recipe to cook something? They have no problem following recipes to cook - but when it comes to technology they are baffled. I really do think it comes down to conceptualization and reference - they have a hard time "connecting the dots" internally. It's obvious. And I don't know what you can do to get around it.
And just when I think about things like the above, for a moment I will wonder what is looming on the horizon that will be the same for me that my kids think is trivial and I'm a dunce for not getting. I try to keep that thought as fleeting as possible
Excellent post. I've elsewhere posted a semi-inflammatory rant about this strange world we've made, wherein perfectly normal people are belittled as being "stupid" for not having an affinity for the kind of abstract systems thinking computer operating systems represent.
And computer file systems are definitely not
"no more difficult" than a physical filing cabinet, for the simple reason that it's not a real filing cabinet.
Abstract representations of things are not the same as the thing itself, do not engage the same parts of the brain, and do not involve a directly transferable set of skills. The statement "I take the paper and put in it the folder labeled 'important stuff'" is not the same as actually taking a piece of paper and putting it into an actual folder, and the system of symbols and codified actions that represent that process within a computer operating system aren't the same as either doing or saying that.
Now consider the actual level of abstraction that all these ostensibly trivially easy to use "actions" involve when using a computer, wherein one must bear in mind that this thing we're calling a "desktop" is somehow different from other "files" which appear in "windows", things get "saved" to "places" that we're not actually sure where they are, there is an uncertain, mutable relationship between "files" and "applications", and "hierarchies" may loop back on themselves.
None of that has fuck-all to do with the real world that evolutionary biology has so exquisitely equipped us to handle. It's the world of recursive math and rigid logic, with the merest scrim of "usability" pasted on, using a metaphor now 30 years old.
People who are conversant with these particular abstractions, who smirk and giggle and imagine that people who don't care to contort their thinking according to the dictates of computer science are "stupid", need to be slapped, hard, over and over again, until they shut the fuck up.
I couldn't be more sincere about this, the rise the IT personality as some kind of necessary evil is really, really depressing thing. If not for the unyielding complexity of the systems they smugly inhabit, we would have kicked them unconscious long ago, just on general principles.
Which is why it's so very interesting to see people with exactly that personality so strenuously attack the very idea of something like the iPad. My most fervent wish is that Apple's model takes off, and you assholes lose your one and only significant asset. At which point we rediscover the simple fact that obsessive compulsive hyper-left brained geeks are actually incredibly unpleasant and probably best shunned.