Dangerous Ads

Suggested prior reading


1. Two recent ad slogans have sufficiently aroused my indignation to prompt me to write this essay. One, from GTE, shows a seemingly smug and self satisfied young lady sitting on a rock in a serene outdoor setting. She is quoted as saying, "Some people actually care how technology works; then there are the rest of us."

2. The other is a TV ad from HP, where, after a ridiculous parody of how engineers think and work, the ad ends with the slogan, "Built by engineers; used by normal people."

3. One of the first revelations I can remember from my early education was not only the huge disparity between the relatively minuscule number of people throughout history who have made a significant contribution to the world and the "rest of them"-the overwhelming majority, but also the fact that most of the time the masses of ordinary people actively opposed the innovations and persecuted the innovators. It seemed so unfair to me that good people who spent their lives working in science and technology to make things better for the rest of us, would be actively opposed.

4. Fortunately, we went through an enlightenment period during which some of the brightest people on earth devoted themselves to science. Later, during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, scientists, engineers, inventors, and technologists were revered and respected. Now that they have transformed the world into a vastly more pleasurable and hospitable place, the masses of people seem to take their work for granted and even have begun to denigrate and deride them as the two ads attest.

5. A hundred years ago the smug young lady would probably have said that "Some people are actually interested in being in the outdoors; and then there are the rest of us". She, along with the masses of the rest of the people, probably would not have emulated Jim Bridger or John Muir and joined them in their love of the same outdoors that she seems to enjoy in the ad. Before the technologists built the roads, the cars, the high tech recreational gear, mapped the countryside, provided emergency rescue and support systems for the modern "adventurer", being in the outdoors could be a life threatening hardship. Now it can be enjoyed by the masses of "normal" people.

6. There are many ways of segregating "us" from "them" and most of them are malignant. We have recent historical examples from Russia and Europe where the classifying of some people as "Intellectuals" and then persecuting them, has caused agonizing setbacks for the rest of the people. Characterizing people as nerds and putting them down for being interested in how technology works seems to me to be a dangerous move in that same direction.

Please send me an email with your comments.

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