Archive for May 20th, 2019

In the Gilligan’s Island TV show, Dr. Roy Hinkley was originally stated to be a high-school science teacher with a degree in botany.  But like all TV “scientists” his store of knowledge and his technical abilities grew as required by lazy writers; he soon became a university professor rather than a high-school teacher and his expertise grew to include chemistry, entomology, psychology, engineering and several obscure Polynesian languages (and that’s just what I recall from childhood).  Whatever intellectual ability or STEM-type skill was required by the plot, the Professor was sure to have already or be able to rapidly acquire by consulting one of the many books he inexplicably brought along on a “three-hour tour”; that he not be skilled in boat repair was also required by the plot, so we’ll just leave that one alone for now.  The important thing is that in episodic fiction (whether that be television, comic books, pulp novels or whatever) “scientist” or “sage” type characters are generally assumed to have vast and encyclopedic knowledge and to be nigh-omnicompetent (Spock in Star Trek wasn’t quite as bad until the third season, when he suddenly acquired previously-unmentioned competencies such as comparative linguistics and art history, again as required by lazy writers).  Such formidable intellectual prowess rarely exists outside of fantasy, and yet you’d be amazed how often people in real life seem to expect unusually intelligent and erudite people to display similarly-superhuman intellectual abilities.  It happens to me on a regular basis; people seem to expect me to know basically everything, and while I certainly do have an exceptional memory, an excellent education, an uncannily-large store of mostly-useless trivia and an above-average learning rate, there are still vast gaps in my abilities and whole intellectual realms I know no more about than the average person (or even less than average if it has anything to do with popular culture from about 1995 to the present).  One of those gaps is computer stuff; in 1989 I actually had above-average practical computer skills (though I had flunked programming half a decade before), but I never really kept up and I’m still not entirely sure how a microprocessor actually works (THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO ATTEMPT AN EXPLANATION IN THE COMMENTS).  Add to that a general aversion to change, a neurological & emotional inability to deal with formal systems, and the fact that my brain was already fully canalized several years before I had home access to the internet, and I think you’ll be able to understand why I’m really not good with computer and internet stuff.  And because I am good at so many things, I tend to be very uncomfortable with and anxious about the things I’m not good at.  I tend to deal with obstacles in my path by figuring them out, charming them, intimidating them, or crying, and none of those work on a computer which is doing something I neither desire nor comprehend.  So if you want to interview me or have me on your podcast or whatever, you are really really really going to have to take care of “the technical details of anything more complicated than ‘click here’, ‘please look into the camera’ or ‘answer the phone’.”  I’m sorry if that reduces me in your estimation; perhaps it would restore your faith if you think of computer stuff being for me as boatbuilding must have been for The Professor.

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