Years ago it was possible to meet a man or woman who could deservedly be called a know-it-all. He or she somehow was well-informed about most major topics — health, politics, sports, child-rearing, cooking, Estonian history, on and on.
Today I run into many fewer such hotshots. Life has become too advanced and complicated for anyone to even begin to be a genuine know-it-all. This column will include a listing of things I know nothing or little about. Feel free to join my borderline-dunce club.
Why were advertisers allowed to take over the web? Today I can’t read my emails or a news flash without unwanted commercials being inserted every 10 seconds. I know that advertising is what pays for the internet to exist, but can’t someone put a leash on it?
Passwords — we are swamped by them. Will there one day be a limit to their requirement? Does your sex partner now request your password before a session of huggy-bear? Just wait. He or she eventually will.
Same way with PDF — portable document format. Notices about their required or recommended use are all over the web now. How did we ever get along without PDFs? Answer: easily. I still don’t know how or why to summon its application. Am I to blame for my ignorance?
That’s enough griping about computers, etc. Let’s look at business practices. Today you may phone a major U.S. company and hope to (eventually) speak to a live person. Forget about it. Odds are strong you will hear only a tape reciting one to 15 options that — if you’re lucky — may give you the answer you’re looking for. If I were emperor, every company would be required to devote at least 5% of its yearly budget to pay for humans hired to speak — live — to any caller.
Can you remember the times when you could easily name the nations with whom we were at war? Germany, Japan, North Korea and North Vietnam pretty well completed the list. Today we have military operations against or within most of the nations and terrorist groups in the Mideast and northern Africa. Next time you meet a pontificating know-it-all, ask him/her to name even half the countries where our troops are active. See what kind of answer you get.
Same thing with our TV and news networks. Remember when there were only about five or six of them? Today we can get alleged “breaking” news from many sources, some of them tagged as left-wing, far-right or God-only-knows who/what they favor.
Nowadays I feel guilty because the only things at the end of my arm are my fingers. But most of my friends hold iPhones, instead. While I barely know my middle name, my sweetie Carolina Moon can punch three keys on her phone and find my blood type, Social Security number and political affiliation. But when I use my trusty flip-phone in public, people shy away from me muttering "Ignorant lout!"
I may buy an iPhone or other wizardry tool one day, but right now I stay busy just looking up the meaning and use of such things as Cortana, Candy Crush, Bluetooth and other things that somehow I have managed to evade learning about in years past.
Rather than complain about the avalanche of new inventions, discoveries, terms and techniques that descend upon us, maybe we all should admit that it’s impossible to know more than a small percentage of what’s out there to learn and cope with. At last report, no one in heaven or on Earth is holding a stopwatch or other measuring device to determine how smart, competent or deserving each human is.
Life has many satisfactions. One of them (let’s admit it) is to sometimes feel smarter than the other person. But an equal pleasure is the joy of abandoning the competitive rat race and simply trying to learn at our own speed. Does this require us to admit that we will never become an authentic, pain-in-the-butt know it all? Absolutely. And won’t that be grand?
Bob Driver’s email address is email@example.com.