Steps 1 and 2
You know what separates IT people from non-IT people? IT people have 2 skills that are actually just them living the future. The first is the wisdom to ask the question “have you turned it off and on again”. A disproportionately large number of computer problems are solved by that. I promise you. It’s step one to being the boss of the machine. The other secret of the IT person (or any techie) is googling it. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you’ve ever asked for help from an IT person and they didn’t know the answer, do you know what they probably did next? Used a search engine. Googling it is so important because it is using a machine to augment your own knowledge and skill set.
I’m always saddened when people don’t Google an answer before asking me for help. Not just because it’s easy and would save me time, but because that’s the future. In the near future (now), we will be relying on machines to make us smarter, faster, better, and more capable. Knowing how to use a search engine to solve your own problems is as basic and fundamental as reading or writing. You must be doing it. It’s especially critical now because being able to properly use a search engine is the underlying skill for what arrived while we weren’t paying attention: the machines are listening.
I spoke the initial draft of this blog post to my phone one Summer night in 2015.
When I started blogging in 2010, there was no option to talk to my computer; but now there is—and it’s pretty powerful. The first draft of this article went fast and the resulting text had fewer spelling errors than if I had typed it. I was halfway through brushing my teeth when the idea for this post came to me. A pen and paper were nowhere close. My computer was upstairs. I only had one hand free. My phone was two feet from me. I’m not even sure what app I used. I might have written an e-mail, or used Evernote. It really doesn’t matter. The input capabilities of the phone trumped the inconsequential file type that was created.
To improve this skill of talking to computers one needs to learn how to speak in a manner that the computer will understand. Computers are dumb. They don’t understand language like you or I do. You need to speak clearly and use words that it will understand. You need to speak the computer’s language (example 1 and 2). You need to phrase questions in a manner that a search engine would understand it. Learn to speak clearly and precisely. If the computer can understand your question, then you’ll get the answers you need—whether it’s the temperature, a recipe, an answer to a math problem, or something more interesting. And when that happens you’ll learn to ask for more.
Fifteen years ago, we looked up answers in books. Five years ago we used search engines. Now, we press a button on our phones and ask questions. The near future belongs to those who make the fastest transition from typing and poking buttons to speaking to computers. Fortunately the transition is easy. Did you know you can tell your tablet or phone to open an app? You don’t need to waste time finding an icon. Practice now because tomorrow you’ll be able to tell it more things. Each year the machines are getting better. Each year your kids are growing up and conquering the digital realm. What are you doing to stay relevant?
Because it’s new; because it’s different; because it’s not how we once did it. These are not acceptable excuses. We need to leave our comfort zone and try new things. We need to experiment. We need to treat our computers and phones like the objects they will become, not the things they no longer are. We need to be creative with technology. We need to treat our digital tools as an artistic medium. We pick up a pencil or a paintbrush and we all creatively doodle. We let our minds wander. We become one with the tool and just create. We need to be that way with more advanced tools. This is not optional. Not in our personal lives. And not in our professional lives. Other people are going to do this. Do you want to be with the people who are mastering new ways of interacting with the digital world, or do you want to be someone who is left behind? Those are your only options.
Think of it this way: every time you hear someone say they don’t want a smart phone, what they are now saying is not “I just need a phone that makes phone calls (and texts).” They are saying “I don’t want to collaborate with intelligent machines.”
It’d be great if you could just say to your computer “Subscribe to Shoegnome” or “e-mail me every time Shoegnome has a new blog post”. But you probably can’t, yet. So follow and subscribe to my blog the old fashioned way: Shoegnome on Facebook, Twitter, and the RSS feed. Seriously clicking on stuff is the old fashioned way. Do you know how wild that is?