Sunday, March 2, 2014

Reality Check

It is impossible to overstate how much the internet has changed our lives, from shopping to social interaction. Virtually everything we do in the modern world features a computer and the internet in some shape or form. Sometimes, as a thought experiment, I think back to my first days living in Canada when Doug and I lived in Calgary. In those days, if we wanted to find out what friends were doing, we called them up and actually talked to them – now we check their Facebook status. If we needed to buy something, we went out to the store, now we check Shop Bot and Ebay. When we were planning our weekend trips, we pulled out all our paper maps and guidebooks and worked out what we would do over the weekend. Now, I open Memory Map, pull up the relevant raster map, then look for some route beta online1

Social media, in particular is incredibly pervasive. Everyone has a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Google Plus account. Information about what our friends, acquaintances, and all those people with whom we have six degrees of separation are doing, planning to do, or have done, has never been more available. It has surely never been easier in the history of the world to compare our performance with that of others. 

 Pathetic performance on Sisters of Fatima,
Dam Cliffs, Blue Mountains, NSW

You would think this would make us all better at calibrating where we stand in any realm of performance be it intellectual, athletic, or any other area of expertise. And yet, we seem to be getting worse. Somehow, despite what would seem ample evidence to the contrary, we are all think we are experts and explorers. More and more people seem to be bumbling about barely avoiding injury/maiming/death of themselves or others and then coming back and telling us what superstars they are. I can't work out if this is willful ignorance, the Dunning Kruger effect, the Cult of Me, or all three combined. Whatever the cause, a reality check is long overdue. 

1As somewhat, but not completely irrelevant aside, back in the Calgary days, Doug and I had a wonderful home-made kitchen table. It was piece of painted board with legs attached to the bottom and all the topographic maps of the local mountains laminated onto the surface. Every night when we had dinner, we would pore over the maps and work out what we would do on the upcoming weekend. Many an epic trip that linked together various passes, ridgelines and mountains was conceived poring over those maps during dinner

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