A self-explanatory conversation

I suppose I should be embarrassed that I actually took up this position in a conversation.

27.05.11 06:50 I’m starting to think that young kids on the Internet are all idiots.
27.05.11 06:58 I have suspected for a long time that everyone on the Internet is an idiot.
27.05.11 06:58 The Internet is like cars and TVs.
27.05.11 06:59 Only idiots on it?
27.05.11 06:59 They have to be reduced to the most inane terms to make them usable by everyone — especially the absolute moron — so that companies can make money.
27.05.11 06:59 So cars are just boxes with wheels, that we turn and go places.
27.05.11 06:59 TVs are just boxes with buttons that show pictures.
27.05.11 06:59 Internet is similar.
27.05.11 07:00 The less complicated, the more people use it, the better a chance to make money.
27.05.11 07:00 And at the same time, the collective census of people using it has an average intelligence level that is slowly floating downward.
27.05.11 07:01 Software is doing the same thing.
27.05.11 07:01 You really should write a book.
27.05.11 07:03 Or start a blog.

There’s really no way to defend that without coming across like an elitist prig. Social grace demands that I withhold some ugly concepts in order to be polite.

I could tell you that all of humanity rolls across a bell curve for computer aptitude, and people near the left-hand tail should probably stick with pens and paper.

But that would imply that some people simply don’t have a practical ability level, and that would sound mean-spirited, and therefore taboo.

I could insist that pushing Linux to embrace more of the central arc of that bell curve means that another resulting curve — the average ability level of Linux users — likewise shifts downward.

But that would imply that pulling in day-to-day users results in less impressive statistics, or that the regular user is getting stupider.

That would likewise be ugly and therefore can’t be repeated.

So I will mention none of those things, and refrain from suggesting that crafting Linux to appeal to less adept computer users is resulting in a mass stupidification of the user base.

I admit I had suggested some similar points, but it was an extract from a conversation on many different topics at once. And I feel slightly guilty now, just as a sign of penitence.

After that, if you inferred anything else, you’re on your own. 👿

17 thoughts on “A self-explanatory conversation

  1. valadil

    I don’t think this has as much to do with intelligence as with laziness. I know plenty of people who could handle linux if they put their mind to it. But it’s not worth the trouble to them, so they put their minds to things that are worth their time. I’m just I could learn to change the oil in my car, but for now $20 every three months isn’t enough to convince me it’s worth the effort.

  2. LaughingGnome

    Yep, nothing new here then!

    The dummification of the consumer has been happening since the end of WW2. But as with technology, it seems to be moving at a rapid pace these days

  3. imgx64

    The sad thing is, there is nothing we can do to improve the situation. Even if a “smart people’s club” exists, the self-proclaimed “rebels” from the majority will join even though they’re just as idiotic as the rest. Remember how Macs were supposed to be different? Or how digg had actual intelligent conversations? I’m afraid the same will happen (already happened?) to Linux and the rest of the elitist clubs.

    I’ve thought for a long time about the cause, then it struck me: there is no way for a person to gauge his own intelligence. For all I know, I’m probably an idiot as well.

  4. Ivica

    I dont know about you, but i have a feeling that dummification has enetered to linux world to, just look at unity.
    That WM is aiming for low iq levels

  5. RedPenguins

    I should disclaim “I’m a librarian” so the tl;dr crowd can just assume that I’m kind of a commie and walk away…

    Modern consumer capitalism forces very useful technologies to be dumbed-down so companies can make more money, which in turn makes us collectively stupider as we invest more of our time and attention in interaction with these devices. Of course, the goons will argue, technology constantly makes us “better informed” and by dumbing it down, we allow more people to become informed, thus counteracting the gradual pull into mass idiocy. My argument: This did not work for TV (no matter how many times they run “Cosmos”, they still run a lot more “Dancing with the Stars”), and it will not work for the Internet. The purpose is not to inform, it is to entertain (and therefore, sell, sell, sell).

    Now, Linux… If it is made more “user-friendly” (we can debate on the meaning of this), then whatever – it’s fine, get more people to use it, etc, etc. I use Grml with wmii on my everyday laptop – I am comfortable in the elitist club – but, I loathe the desire to keep out the “outsiders”… this is why I don’t use dwm; they’re assholes on IRC and proud of it.

    The reason I welcome noobs and the willfully ignorant: Linux defies the problem at the core of the “dumbed down” technologies in such a way that it cannot be a true contributor to the mass-decline-in-brain issue. It is free, not dedicated to making new and better consumers. All the technologies that have been mentioned in this general discussion – cars, proprietary software, cell phones, so on and so forth – are just that: technologies whose development has been solely guided by the desire of a small group of producers to sell more stuff to a larger group of consumers, and get rich. Linux – by design – doesn’t make us want to buy, it makes us want to learn and become informed. People who don’t become curious to learn at some point will never really be comfortable with Linux (unless it’s sold to them with a corporate stamp on it).

    So, whatever, I’m a commieanarchistpinkohippiehackernerdbrokeassloser. I like crappy, ugly cars that I can wrench on; I like dumpster computers with free OSs and throwaway $20 mp3 players, and scoff at sleek new Apple products; I like a cell phone I can pay for in cash; I work 15 hour weeks even though I have graduate degrees because I prefer free time and creative crap to money… But, really, I think Linux is resistant to the dumb-down push in a big way, because it pushes back…

    1. imgx64

      Looks like K.Mandla really hit the spot and said what many people didn’t have the guts to say in fear of being labeled elitist. I expect the comments on this page to be a soapbox for everyone who has an axe to grind ;).

      I totally agree with you, but I’d like to point out something. I’m not familiar with the wmii or dwm communities myself, but from what you said, it seems the dwm community is a perfect example of the pseudo-rebel syndrome I mentioned in my comment. The main reason they join the club is the elitism, so they can enjoy ridiculing the outsiders once they’re inside, not because it’s less dumbed down, and this ends up ruining it for everyone (old-timers and newcomers alike). This is exactly why I think the problem can’t be solved; the obvious solution just adds to the problem.

    2. Reply Replay

      I don’t use dwm either but I lurk on their mailing list [1] since 2008.
      I’ve never visited their IRC channel, though.

      I agree that it’s a very special kind of crowd but I really urge you to try and read on their mailing list for a while. It might be strange at times but there’s a lot of knowledge there. I even met Anselm in person the other day… 😉

      For the topic at hand: Yeah, that’s why I’m using Linux. Although I’m using a well-known distribution at the moment, there’s literally nothing stopping me from rolling my own or using LFS (Linux from scratch) as a base once we run out of options.

      Back in 2006 when I finally made the switch to Linux, there was this warm and fuzzy feeling that I’m now in complete control over my hardware. I like that thought…

      [1] http://lists.suckless.org/dev/

  6. persea

    @valadil – you get an oil change every three months?? A full change for twenty dollars? Or does he just check the level and go buy a round of beers with your 20?

    @RedPenguins – if you like wmii, try i3 – it’s aimed as a wmii replacement and is in active development. It also has a sane default configuration.

    @everyone else….I’m disappointed in you all! Quit moaning that the world is dumb please. Sure, TV is controlled by coporate greed – don’t watch it. Sure, the music industry is too – don’t listen to it. The internet is mostly full of shit – don’t use it, buy real, physical books for reference and learning. But how far do you go? Personally, I believe even things like soap, hot water and socks are unnecessary luxuries foisted on us by corporations, but I don’t imagine many of you do. (no, I don’t smell by the way, I do wash). However, I would never assume that the rest of the world is “dumb” for blindly buying soap and socks (though I’ll try and educate them if I have the chance).

    What I think most of you don’t get (and I’m just as guilty of this at times – I’m not preaching) is that you’re only harming yourselves by bitching about it. It achieves nothing except to make you angry. You’re never going to move Ubuntu back to what it was, so just deal with it and move to Arch. If Arch ever dumbs down, move on. If someone wants to post crap to twitter all day using a fancy phone that has buttons that fly all over the place, ignore them. That’s the whole point about foss is that we get the choice, and we can change our minds at any time and move on. The people who don’t want that choice use Apple products, and are happy to pay the premium. So what? What is so painful about that, apart from that niggling little voice in your head that wants the whole world to be the way you think it should be? That little voice (we all get it) is the cause of most of the worlds problems: people with ideologies trying to force them onto others.

    I’ll give a final example, I like my cars to “just work” – to go from a to b (though automatic gearboxes scare me). Hence I’ve never learned the mechanics of it and can do no more except check the oil and water and change a tire. What’s so wrong with that? If people want a computer that “just works” so they can post to twitter and play games on facebook, what’s the harm?

  7. vicky

    Well said Persea!! My brother was invited to the International Math Olympics he is dumb because he doesn’t know how to use the command line, Right??

  8. Kristian

    I’m with Persea here… One of the defining qualities of FLOSS is the multitude of choices. My Ubuntu 11.04 installation from a CD coexists peacefully with your Arch/Gentoo/Whatever installation from a diskette/punch card/whatever, and vice versa. The pool of code is (often) the same, so whatever Shuttleworth or some basement nerd dreams up can be used by the other part if they so desire.

    My Linux experience started with a dual boot of the then-current version of Ubuntu, because it was free as in beer. After some time, I discovered that I could do things faster from the command line, and one thing lead to another. These days, I’m a vocal FLOSS advocate playing with all sorts of stuff. Also, I’m much much better with computers that I ever thought I’d be, or would care to be. This happened via Ubuntu, on my own terms, taking the time it needed to. I sincerely don’t think it would have happened if the hypothetical “default Linux” would need advanced skills like kmandla seems to suggest. Let’s play with the stuff we like *and* welcome the newcomers!

  9. bpalone

    An old Cowboy Philosopher by the name of “Will Rogers” stated it best:

    “We are all ignorant, just in different areas.”

    Just applicable today, as the day it was uttered.


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