Masters of Nothing

Back in the dark, dark pre-Internet days, I ran into a boy I knew from high school. The last time I’d seen him he was working in sales. So I was somewhat surprised when he told me he had become a roofer. I was even more surprised when I asked him where he learned the trade, and he told me, nonchalantly, “from a book.”

Call me naïve. But I thought books were supposed to supplement, rather than replace, actual experience. As I walked away, I made a mental note of the company that had hired him—so I wouldn’t make the mistake of having it work on my house.

I never suspected, within just a few decades, that the Internet would trump books, and experience would become an obstacle to a career. 

The amazing thing about technology is that it allows everyone to be an expert. It’s also what makes it so dangerous.

In less than 30 minutes, I can skim volumes of information about virtually anything to become a virtual expert. Looking for real estate? Have questions about a lease? Want some help with site selection? Armed with nothing more than my untested, unverified, incomplete data, I can happily answer anything you want.

But don’t come back again if you have any problems. It’s unlikely I read anything about solving them. Besides, odds are I’d no longer be interested in the topic anyway. By then, the real estate expert might have morphed into a physician’s assistant, travel agent or digital photographer.

Expertise in anything, after all, is only 30 minutes away, like dinner with Rachel Ray.

Why pay for professional advice when you can get it from a novice, free of charge?

There’s only one reason: because you understand what matters is more than the sum of scattered bits of information. Professionals master technology, and use it to improve their speed, efficiency and accuracy. They don’t think technology–or even books–makes them masters of anything but a little information.

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Filed under amatuers, Technology

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