Reading time: 2,565 words, 6 to 10 minutes
‘Dumb’ is more than a four letter word. Get used to it because there will be a lot more ‘dumb’ in the future. You may not be able to cure ‘dumb’ but knowledge is power and so your awareness of impending dumbness can arm you against the worst of it.
Here are three examples of increasing dumbness that happened to me all in ONE day.
Dentist – I received a letter from my dentist’s office containing three documents. One was the insurance form showing the coverage and the $25.00 deductible I had to pay. The second was also an insurance form sent to me in error indicating some poor fellow named Kelvin being denied his claim payment because his coverage had expired. The third was a partially typed invoice for $152.00 with handwritten “+ $25.00, please send a cheque for $177.00”.
I was confused. I failed to understand why I should pay $177.00 for a $152.00 procedure, most of which should have been covered by insurance (except for the $25.00 deductible). I didn’t think this would be resolved over the phone so I visited my dentist’s office.
They admitted that poor Kelvin’s claim denial was included in error. She explained that the invoice was actually for two procedures; one in January and the other in December. However, the confusing invoice didn’t indicate that.
I remarked that it was odd that the insurance company supposedly paid me for one claim and paid the dentist for the other. She sheepishly admitted they got a new computer system in September and failed to input my account for direct deposit of claim payments.
In other words, they admitted their incompetence. Even after three months they had failed to learn and fine-tune their new computer system. This explains why claim payments were inconsistent. It explains why they couldn’t print a proper invoice and why they add handwriting to their computer generated invoices.
Furthermore I told them I did NOT receive payment for one of these claims. She said I’d have to take the matter up with the insurance company. That’s just wonderful. I like nothing better than fighting with idiots. No, really! It’s like shooting fish in a barrel but it is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience.
Optician – After visiting the dentist, I dropped by my optician because the focus on my brand new glasses was wrong. I have been their customer for more than twenty years and this optician was not cheap but I’ve always been willing to pay extra for good service. However, the original owners retired a couple years ago and with the new owners things began going downhill.
I spend most of my time at work glued to a computer screen so focusing on medium distance is critical. Two years ago, when I ordered new glasses under the new owners, I emphatically told them I need glasses mostly for computer work. However, when I tried the new glasses the “sweet spot” of focus was too narrow for a computer screen so I returned them. They said, “Oh, you need screen lenses”. When I asked, they said it was for working with computer screens.
Apparently, they either have a hearing problem or are incompetent because I had emphatically told them that was exactly what I needed. In any case, they replaced the lenses with the proper ones. Being a long-time customer of theirs, I was prepared to give them another chance.
So, when I ordered new glasses this time, I endlessly repeated I need them for computer work. They assured me these new Nikon wide lenses were designed with exactly that in mind.
This time when I returned the glasses, I told them there are three problems. One: the sweet spot is too low and I would have to tilt my head up in an uncomfortable position. Two: the sweet spot is again too narrow for a computer screen. And three: the recent optometrist’s examination indicated my eyesight had improved slightly (one of the benefits of old age) so why are these new glasses so much more powerful?
This time, one of the new owners argued with me. She said, very patronizingly there was nothing wrong with the glasses and I simply wasn’t experienced with progressive lenses. When I refused to cave in, she got belligerent. I calmly told her my previous four glasses all had progressive lenses so I do have a lot of experience with them. I also reminded her they had screwed up my previous glasses in exactly the same way and they rectified the problem. Anyway, she reluctantly accepted the return of my new glasses and agreed to contact Nikon and said they’d call me the following week.
We shall see… Whether they fix the problem or not, I shall seek a new optician for my next glasses.
I learned long ago when dealing with customers that the customer is always right (whether they are or not), I don’t assume I know everything, I don’t patronize and, when faced with a problem, I fix it and don’t argue with the customer. Obviously, this new dumbed-down generation has failed to learn even these basics of customer service. Woe is us.
Computer – the work I do, although mainframe-based is enhanced with many of our own proprietary intranet applications. However, any computer geek will tell you that the challenge with programming as well as data entry is GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. In other words, computers are no smarter than the people doing the programming, data entry or the people using the programs.
After visiting the dentist and the optician, I’m back in the office and I notice a glitch in one of our pricing programs. It was adding an item that our IT Dept. supposedly had eliminated. I emailed head office and shortly after received a phone call from a very bright and capable supervisor I’d known for many years.
She said that I was manually adding this item. I disagreed but she insisted and she emailed me a ‘Snip’ of the administrative screen showing my name as the user adding this item. I again strongly disagreed and mentioned a second model that was doing the same thing. She looked at it too and again insisted I was manually entering the item.
I reminded her that a manual entry like that required too many steps for it to be accidental. I told her that a computer program that was adding an item supposedly deleted by IT was also capable of mistaking a user opening a program for one responsible for a program error.
I then asked a female colleague to try the program and the same error occurred. It was only then that the supervisor finally and reluctantly agreed that the program might be in error. She said she’d fix it.
Astute readers may detect a common thread in the three incidents above. I’ll expand on this below in discussing what you can do to protect yourself from a dumbed-down future.
So, at this point you may wonder if this has anything to do with you. You may also wonder if it’s really this bad. The answer to both is ‘Yes.’ It will affect you and it’s worse than you think and it will get a lot worse in future.
I pay attention to the mining world for a number of reasons. One, I used to work in the mines (four different mines paid for my university education). Two, I’m directly involved in mining equipment; my present incarnation being Mining Logistics Manager. Three, I invest in mining stocks. Four, I realized long ago how under-rated mining is. “If you can’t grow it, you have to mine it.” Consequently, mining has a much bigger impact on people’s lives than they’ll ever realize. Like logistics, you won’t know how much you need it until it’s gone.
Here’s a look at the bigger mining picture and how dumbed-down people are impacting just one industry and how that impact will affect you.
Larry Southwick writes about incompetence in Degrading technical knowledge threatens mining projects and Lawrence Williams in All change at the top – Top global mining CEOs an endangered species illustrates how we are rapidly losing competent leaders.
Both writers agree that, “much of the blame for recent cost escalations and project failures was due to the shortcomings of company technical teams and their advisors… Those factors have been all too common the last 10-15 years, probably longer, where the hands-on familiarity of what makes technologies work and how to successfully apply them has degraded to the point almost of nonexistence.
“In other words, almost no one knows how to do this anymore, and those that do cannot convince those who do not, and those who are in charge of project directions and design choices don’t understand what the fuss is all about.”
“…younger audiences have misplaced their confidence in computer models and questionable mathematical extensions of hard data beyond the limits of their applicability. And while the older audiences may remember some of the examples, the groups of which they are a part no longer function with the required objectivity or even technical thoroughness.”
And it’s going to get a lot worse as experienced leaders leave the field to be replaced by incompetent youngsters. Williams says, “Of the world’s 10 largest mining companies, eight CEOs have been pushed, resigned, or are at least rumoured to be leaving.”
As a result of incompetent teams and loss of leadership, large projects are being reined in. “A hiatus in mega project development may just serve to create shortages and boost metals prices in the medium term…” Higher prices will add to inflationary pressures at a time of shrinking global economies adding to the risk of an inflationary depression.
Protect yourself – so what can you do to protect yourself from a dumbed-down future? The fact you’re reading this is a good sign. Keep reading.
Computer faith – We have so much faith in computers that we usually blame the user for errors when often it’s the program or the data that’s wrong. There are far too many people who steadfastly believe what a computer tells them when, in fact, the data that’s entered is no more than somebody’s SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guesstimate). I’ve seen far too many examples of “buckets of data thrown over the module’s wall and most of it somehow gets there.” It’s the stuff that doesn’t make it that’s frightening.
I’ve received emails months after they were sent. One took a year and a half. Some people have so much faith in computers they refuse to believe that.
Solution: be skeptical. Don’t believe everything a computer tells you. If it doesn’t sound right it may not be. Verify. Verify. Verify.
Also, when dealing with computer people, remember they are technicians and not “people-people”. They aren’t comfortable with personal interaction. If you ask them to program something, you must risk being annoying by revisiting and reviewing their progress. Otherwise, they’ll give you what they THINK you want, move onto the next item on their busy schedule and you’re stuck with something you didn’t want. A carpenter would say “measure twice and cut once.”
Gullible Women – At the risk of sounding sexist (as if I care) there is one common thread running through the three incidents that happened to me in one day; all involved women. The dentist’s office, the optician and the computer supervisor were all women. In the case of the supervisor, she did not believe there was a problem until a female colleague of mine verified it. Now, that’s sexual discrimination.
And, although I’m not a great judge of age, I’d guess they were all in their thirties. Keep that in mind when dealing with that particular generation..
Women in general are more gullible than men. That’s why scam artists tend to prey on women. This is also why church pews contain more women than men. The early Catholic church understood and capitalized on women‘s gullibility. The church’s message appealed first to ignorant, uneducated slaves (“the meek shall inherit the earth) and then gullible women. Once they had the women, the children followed. And, when they had the slaves, women and children (practically the entire Roman household) the husbands, skeptical though they may have been, reluctantly went along.
Imagine this conversation late at night in a Roman bedroom:.
She: “Not tonight, dear. I don’t f**k pagans.”
He: “Oh, Hallelujah, I’ve seen the light!”
Gullible women have swallowed the feminist party line of equality and the ass media cravenly push their male-bashing agenda which encourages women to see all men as asses (true in some cases but obviously NOT all). In all three incidents above, I had to argue with stubborn women who believed they were right by virtue of their womanhood and I was wrong because I’m a male (four letter word) therefore I must be an idiot.
Sorry to say, sisters, but most of you don’t know shit and most of you are unaware of how little you know. Unconscious ignorance is the worst and most dangerous kind. You first have to admit you know nothing before you can learn something.
Our dumbed-down education system has convinced women they are god’s gift to mankind. Or, as one wag said, “Those of you who think you know everything are really annoying to those of us who do.”
Solution: stand your ground and don’t cave in to pushy women. Don’t yell and don’t lose your cool. Treat people with respect whether they deserve it or not. Don’t call in to question feminism or women’s lib or any prevailing bullshit as that just invites name calling and stubbornness and a refusal to deal with the issue at hand. Simply stand your ground. If they think you’re an ass, what do you care? Your objective is to prevent or solve a problem, not change people.
Be prepared to repeat yourself several times because our dumbed-down education system, the entertainment industry and the ass media have created generations of people who cannot listen and have almost zero comprehension.
Don’t assume if you say something the message is understood. Ask for verification. Ask them to repeat in their own words what they think you said. And be prepared to gently correct the dummies.
We learn to read, we learn to write and we learn to speak. How many of you have ever been taught how to listen?
Self-esteem – This brings us to another problem created by our dumbed-down education system. By refusing to fail and by fostering “feel-good” self-esteem over critical thinking skills we are creating generations of men and women who feel good but know next to nothing; in other words generations who don’t know how little they know. It’s frightening to think they’re the ones who will choose the Boomers’ nursing homes.
Solution: again, knowledge is power. You know they’re out there. You know they’re dangerous and they have no idea how dumb they are.
You cannot assume competency. Be prepared to bite your tongue and use diplomacy. Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way they look forward to the trip.
As usual, there’s much more to be said but you and I don’t have all the time in the world. If you can add anything to this discussion, feel free to leave a comment.
January 26, 2013
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