Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Rise of Incompetence

I was inspired by the account of the Palin hack. The hack was as trivial as knowing the name of her dog, or in this case, her high school. But in this case, the real issue was the desire to have email outside the fishbowl of the gov't email (which had to be all made public).

When you are an old man, you wonder if everybody else is going crazy, or it's just you. In this case, I wonder about the 'Rise of Incompetence'. Why is it that the political short-term-ists totally rule the roost? Why has this become almost universal throughout government and business?

We see the results every day. Wall Street imploding, nuclear plants run into the ground before their time (Pickering B!), and giant health scares. For all of these, it has been found that the level-headed experts who went against the herd were fired. How can these political operators survive so much better now, than they used to?

I have to blame it on technology. It used to be that all communication was on paper. This ensured that people who could actually write, had the upper hand. Usually, that implied people who could think. Nearly every political person, like a king, needed that advisor beside him, who could write, and plan. King Henry could go and chop off everybody's head, but the real power was in the advisors. Correspondence in companies was buried in the huge paper vaults, never to be seen again.

All that changed, I remember, when the word processor came along. Soon, everybody, could write some trash, and circulate it to a million people. It became easy for the non-thinkers to band together, and get rid of anybody they didn't like. Even more so, all those emails became public property, so soon, nobody was doing anything important by writing. It all became verbal.

This totally shifted the power away from the thinkers, to the verbalizers. In the old company, the 'event horizon' of thinking, shrank from a lifetime, to under a year. Nobody cared if what they were doing was bad in the long term, since there was nobody to bitch about it, and if they did, you could fire them!

What's the trend for the future? I believe that all the chickens will come home to roost, and that this current cycle of blundering into crisis after crisis, will eventually end. They will have to deal with the issue of written communication, and I think everything should be opened up, or nothing opened up. In the meantime, expect more disasters.


Silver Fox said...

An interesting analysis. And I've probably lost a lot of my sense and ability over these many years because I don't write on paper (although I obviously do write on a keyboard).

I think, though, that a lot of people used to have their secretaries do the final writing, so maybe the secretaries were really the ones who could think and read and write. Not too many people actually running things wrote things on paper, they dictated. But then, it was issued on paper, which someone had to read.

Hmmm... It does seem to me that I get dumber all the time - or is it just my memory going?

Harold Asmis said...

Yes, that's it! It's the decline of the secretary, who used to run everything. I still think the political types used to defer to the thinkers, because they couldn't write their way out of a paper bag. If you blackberry everything, your horizon becomes very short.