[ExI] Teaching kids was roboburgers to go

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Fri Sep 27 15:42:58 UTC 2013

> From: Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org>
> On Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 07:46:41PM -0700, Keith Henson wrote:

>> Was thinking about this very topic recently and have no idea.
>> Virtually everything I know, particularly mechanical skills, is
>> obsolete. Who needs to rebuild a carburetor? Set the points in a
>> distributor? Replace the vertical amplifier in a TV with magnetic
>> deflection?

> Some mechanical skills are hard to automate. Working automation
> assumes supply of cheap energy, materials and capital. Some of us
> expect a prolonged period where such are scarce, and so need to plan in
> for absence of some of what we take for granted today.

Once things start rolling downhill in that direction on a scale large
enough to cause problems, you are very likely to see things go like
Syria.  The main problem will be the food supply failing because it is
totally dependent on the energy supply.  I don't know how far things
will fall back, long way would be my guess.

> We have a big problem: too much magic. Magic is really neat, but
> it takes huge supply chains, and turns into an unfixable brick
> if the fairy dust supply stops. Regression in capabilities might
> require use of technology many have completely forgotten ever
> existed. We will need more fixer-uppers and more engineers which
> are not just glorified trained monkeys. E.g. what I see in
> IT these days is utterly appalling.

>> It's almost as bad as chipping rocks to get a sharp edge (which I can also do).
> Let's hope you won't need to teach these skills.

Agreed.  There are a lot of files around.  I have also ground a really
nice knife out of a file, but then there are a lot of knives around
too.  Big fall in the population and there should be knives around
that keep people from needing sharp rocks for hundreds to thousands of

>> Long list of skills that are utterly out of date.
> You can never quite know in advance.

Robert Heinlein was a major influence in my life.  There is a list of
skills in _Time Enough for Love_ "A human being should be able to
change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design
a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a
bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act
alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a
computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.
Specialization is for insects."

I can, and have, done most of those.  Those I have not, such as "plan
an invasion" just have not come up in my life.

I have, however, done every single step in making bread.  For a few
years I made virtually all the bread the family ate.  (It was a sink
for the excess eggs from the chickens and ducks.)

>> When I was about 7 I remember watching my father rebuild a fuel pump
>> for a late 1949s vintage car.  Those skills were useful, though I
>> don't think I ever rebuilt a fuel pump myself. I am hard pressed to
>> think of a skill I could pass on to someone of that age.
> Kids like to disassemble things, and taking things apart is even
> instutionalized in kindergartens. The problem is finding things to
> take apart which is rewarding.

As a kid I was known for doing this. The late and very much lamented
Hugh Daniel used to provide such opportunities frequently.  He was
exceptionally good with kids and ran "take it apart" sessions
frequently at science fiction conventions. A favorite for many years
was disk drives.

> Magic is rarely that way.
> Few pick take to abstraction like fishes to water, you need physical
> layer activities to prime the process, and provide reference points.

Exactly.  What is a kid going to learn taking apart a solid state drive?


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