Friday, February 03, 2012

How People Get Smarter Over Time

From Ajah Shah's blog, a post on changes in the computer world:
In the 1980s, software came with fat manuals. Users actually sat down in training classes. A remarkable feature of the new world is how the manuals and training are gone. Software is incredibly capable but there are no manuals. Google maps or Amazon or Apple Mail are very powerful programs, but the fundamental assumption is that a reasonable person can just start tinkering with them and learn more as he goes.
The modern office worker gets no formal training in software all his life. The modern knowledge worker learns major tools (e.g. a programming language) and often puts in enormous effort for these. But for the rest, the ordinary flow of day to day life, where new software systems come up all the time, is done without formal training.
 One of the puzzles of life is the Flynn effect, which says every generation is smarter than the previous one.  Personally I think we drastically underestimate the effect of the learning which floats in the environment, which Mr. Shah's observation implies.

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