Reflections on a life well learned


From DeaPeaJay's photostream on flickr, used under CC license, some rights reserved

I was just making a list of all the things I need to do at work over the next two weeks, using a brilliant app called Wunderlist. It’s really quite magical. If I add a task to a to-do list on my iPhone, it synchs with my desktop computer, my laptop and my iPad. All my to do lists on any device are the same, when I add something on only one device. It’s like they are reading one another’s minds. How cool is that?!

Besides being cool, there are two things about this that are remarkable. One is the fact that I have all these devices. And I actually use them all. Each of them takes a good bit of learning to fully understand and use to maximum effect. (Not that I ever feel I’ve achieved that!) Think how much learning that is. And it happens every time I get a new device.

Actually, it’s worse than that. Some learning is required when any of those devices have software or firmware upgrades. Which happen kinda often.

And then there’s the apps. Clever people are always coming up with new things I can do with my devices. Need to make a to do list? There’s an app for that. Need to know when the next bus is coming? There’s an app for that. And so on. There’s an app for everything people can think up. There’s probably an app to keep track of apps. And we have to learn those apps. And they keep updating, of course.

I’m one of the lucky ones, actually, because I use Apple devices so the hardware and the software are specifically designed to go together and one operating system now underlies many of them. And they are mostly very well designed intuitive devices. But still, there is a lot of learning. And relearning. And unlearning. And new learning…

The second remarkable thing is that my to do list includes a lot of things to learn. Google+. Spotify. Storify. Klout. Quora, tumblr. You won’t believe how long the list is. Not to mention that I never really fully finished learning things on my list from a year or two ago: friendfeed, foursquare, etc. etc. so they are still there, lanquishing near the ever-sinking bottom.

To do the job I have as well as I would like to do it, I could easily spend all my days just learning enough to barely keep up. But then there would be no time to do the work of the job itself.

When I stop to ponder it, I think this way of living is pretty ridiculously stressful. I feel I’m always in a state of arousal, always scanning the horizon to see what new thing is coming I might miss, who posted something that might help me makes sense of the next big thing or even the next little thing if it’s cool enough.

The worst part is that no one is telling me I have to do this, it’s something I’m imposing on myself. I’m delighted with the human brilliance on display in all these inventions, all this exquisite design. I like to keep up, I love the new devices and the things I can do with them. They clearly do make a lot of things in my life easier, they give me immediate access to more information than I thought possible, and so forth. But I find that they also allow me to keep raising my own expectations higher and higher.

When I was in college in the late 1960s/early 70s, we learned from our professors’ lectures and discussions, the books we read for class and the resources at the wonderful Regenstein Library. We wrote essays and typed our papers. In those days, once you had a typewriter and you learned to type, you were pretty much fixed as far as equipment went. Well, okay, you had to learn how to change the ribbon. But for the most part, you could just concentrate on learning the content of the class curriculum. Maybe it’s my fading memory, but even the incredible and demanding learning environment of the college at the University of Chicago in those days did not feel as intense as the daily demands of keeping up with ever changing ever growing complexity of equipment needed for doing a lot of jobs today.

Even though I love learning and am utterly addicted to it, sometimes all that learning is just…well, you know, too much. Maybe there’s just a learning limit and I’ve reached it. Or maybe that’s why I seem to be getting so forgetful. There’s so much new learning going on my brain has to erase things learned earlier to make room.

Maybe my RAM is full and I’m relying strictly on my totally inadequate and outdated ROM. If you don’t know what that means, consider it a learning opportunity. 🙂

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One response

  1. Hi the age of almost 82 ..I am called the computer grandma ..but I sure identify with you. Even a a new land phone had to be deciphered by a granddaughter and my husband who usualy can follow directions well..failed as the answer was not in the insruction book but in trial and error. I just got used to web mail and then qwest changed and we had no email for weeks ..finally called qwest and they walked me through getting my emails up and going and the next thing you know it is changed again just when I am figuring things out. So I do agree with you that our brains are over loaded so that is why memories fail in things. You manage well …I have not even tried the ipod and the mp3 it is all greek to me. I heard on the radio that when you buy a computer and you walk out or the store it is already obsolete. I comfortabel desktop because it os 2000…we can no longer use most of the programs that I like as all have to be updated for a nice sum….so we have our lap tops. I just had to write this comment as it hits the spot ..though the difference is you are still learning …I am learning but not to that extent. have a great day ..greetings from rainy Ocean Shores …….