14.0141 therapy available for our condition

From: Humanist Discussion Group (willard@lists.village.virginia.edu)
Date: Mon Jul 31 2000 - 10:06:14 CUT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 141.
          Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

            From: Mark Warschauer <markw@hawaii.edu> (97)
            From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni- (8)
            Subject: [pn] Trust yourselves, not computers

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    by Andy Oram
    July 14, 2000

    Numerous communities are trying to wrench their populations into "the
    information age" by introducing computer skills in the classroom. In
    the following dialog, a community leader who is troubled by the
    results talks with a therapist online.

    Patient: I have a problem with computers.

    Therapist: Tell me about the problem with computers.

    Patient: I depend on computers for things I shouldn't.

    Therapist: Why do you think you shouldn't?

    Patient: Well, my community is trying to lift its high school
                    graduates' economic status and transition welfare
                    recipients into secure jobs by giving them basic
                    training in simple office computer programs. We've
                    sunk a lot of the educational budget and discretionary
                    government funding into this endeavor.

    Therapist: Is there something about this endeavor that bothers

    Patient: It's not working. Turns out that employers are taking
                    those skills for granted and looking for candidates
                    with more specialized and refined educations.

    Therapist: Earlier you were telling me you depend on computers
                    for things you shouldn't.

    Patient: That's because we thought that computerizing and going
                    on the Internet would provide a larger market for our
                    goods and services. But it turns out that those
                    technologies favor consolidation and streamlining. The
                    only way to get ahead in such a game is to offer the
                    same thing as all the other vendors but to shave a few
                    tenths of a cent off of the costs of every
                    transaction. So we're reducing the quality of work
                    and hearing increasing complaints from citizens about
                    their narrowing opportunities in life.

    Therapist: Could it be that it's because you've sunk a lot of the
                    educational budget and discretionary government
                    funding into this endeavor that you're reducing the
                    quality of work and hearing increasing complaints from
                    citizens about their narrowing opportunities in life?

    Patient: That's an odd idea, but it's worth considering. Maybe
                    we should spend less time cultivating computer skills
                    and more time finding the unique contributions each
                    person can make. We've been ignoring the treasures
                    right in our own back yard. I'll tell you what's
                    really bad: we find ourselves in conflict with every
                    other community for an ever-shrinking toehold at the

    Therapist: I can tell that you don't like that you're in conflict
                    with every other community for an ever-shrinking
                    toehold at the top.

    Patient: Yes, it's terrible! Every community is trying to be
                    the number one warehouse supplier.

    Therapist: Maybe every community should not be trying to be the
                    number one warehouse supplier.

    Patient: Hey, you just gave me a really powerful idea.

    Therapist: Tell me more about the really powerful idea.

    Patient: Instead of homogenizing our culture and competing on
                    the same ground within a single global market, maybe
                    every community should play to its own strengths. You
                    see, we buy things as well as sell them. We can be a
                    desireable market that the mega-corporations want to
                    tap. It's possible for modern technology to pinpoint
                    customized services to each town's geography, culture,
                    and particular needs.

    Therapist: Tell me what it would be like for modern technology to
                    pinpoint customized services to each town's geography,
                    culture, and particular needs.

    Patient: It would be great! Then we could present local experts
                    as intermediaries between their populations and the
                    companies trying to appeal to us. That's a source of
                    employment for us, and a source of valuable
                    information to outsiders. The companies who did the
                    best job making use of the skills of local experts
                    would reap the most rewards. Say, you know your stuff!

    Therapist: Why should I say that I know my stuff?

    Patient: Because you've solved my problem! I'm going to stop
                    expecting so much from computers, and concentrate on
                    promoting what's extraordinary and desirable about my
                    town's markets and services. Thanks.

    Therapist: Your welcome.

    Patient: Good-bye.

    Therapist: My automated ecommerce agent will send you a bill.


    Andy is an editor at O'Reilly & Associates and moderator of the Cyber
    Rights mailing list for Computer Professionals for Social
    Responsibility. You can reach him at andyo@oreilly.com. This article
    represents his views only. This article can be reposted in its
    entirety for non-profit use.

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