Looking for an Answer Man

In another time, answers seemed ascendant, or at least, you knew how and where to find them.  Knowing your way around a good library was helpful. Sometimes it was as simple as asking dad. Our culture was built around a functional model that’s now nostalgic at best. Now if a youth in school suggested that his information source was good ole’ dad, he’d probably be suspended for some violation or another. Now, it’s all about Google.

Those of us of a particular vintage remember The Shell Answer Man and the series of commercials that Shell Oil ran during the 1960s into the early 1990s. Again, a time not that long ago (when viewing history’s arc) where assurance, rather than uncertainty was trumpeted. Perhaps Americans were simply less skeptical than they are at the moment.

Nicholas Carr linked to one of the more interesting blog posts I’ve read in quite some time, over at his own Rough Type blog. The post he recommended was written by Will Davies at the British think tank, the Political Economy Research Centre’s (PERC) blog. Davies (in the most provocative piece I’ve read on Brexit) touched on (in point #4) how we’re now relying on data, rather than facts. This reinforces my own point about difficulty in finding answers. It’s also why polling prior to the Brexit vote was flawed and why our own political polling is meaningless. We’ll just have to wait ‘til November to see how everything shakes out. Kind of eliminates the need to follow the news media closely, doesn’t it?

I’ve been reading Neil Postman’s Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. He concludes the book with a chapter called, “The Loving Resistance Fighter.” I thought it was an apt ending to what I consider a classic work on how not to be duped by the techno-utopian crowd. Postman, writing 25 year prior to Davies, delineates that our flood of data has made us all reliant on priesthood of experts, bureaucrats, and social scientists to explain what it all means. Their answers often come up short.

I’m grateful to Postman (and writers/bloggers like Carr) in that they offer a road map for anyone that prefers answers to questions, or at least appreciates the past and where we’ve come from in framing intelligent questions.

4 thoughts on “Looking for an Answer Man

  1. Another great post.

    I wonder if Postman talks about technology and its role in stunting personal connection and conversation.

    Maybe back in ’92 that was not a point of discussion as it is beginning to be now at least to some of us.

  2. Good morning…I liked today’s post very much. I’ll read the two links (Carr and Davies) this evening for further illumination and then wait to hear Loosehead Prop’s dissertation on Brexit, given that he lived in England for quite some time. I’ve been fascinated by the propaga…er…news about Brexit via reports of the “roiling” markets. Especially when a 250 point “dive” in the market yesterday is a “news alert” at the top of the hour, all because of Brexit. Yet when the markets close “up” 250 points day after day after day after year prior to Brexit, it’s “prosperity” and not a algo-based market manipulation.

    Father knows best. Indeed.

    The JBE’s recommendation that there is no longer any need to follow “news” media is exactly right. Carry on.

  3. @Sally Postman doesn’t delve into technology’s role in “stunting” personal connection. That’s not really his point in Technopoly. He’s touching more on how technology shapes everything in our lives (and I’d include human interaction in that). Sherry Turkle’s latest book does a better job on that front. I offered a synopsis on it back in January.

    @JAB Davies’ post is extraordinary, in my opinion. I need to get back in the habit of visiting Carr’s blog, too.

  4. A dissertation on Brexit? Well, I’d seen the piece by Davies and wanted to send it to you, but hadn’t time for even that. Glad you saw it, then.

    Julie is right to pay no attention to the noise about the markets. They are thoroughly rigged and utterly incapable of doing the one thing they are supposed to do well, which is determine the price of something. I saw my old boss (many steps removed), ADM Stavridis on blahblahblah.news today, pitching that now Great Britain will have a lot more money to put into its defence and NATO. Pitchmen everywhere on this one.

    So are the completely predictable scare stories of how minorities are being beaten, robbed, raped, et ceter et cetera et cetera (shades of the King of Siam). I’ve seen comical images of a Mohammedan walking down a street holding up his UK passport like it was a garlic-enshrined crucifix to ward off vampires. Data? Well, when it comes to crime in the UK the data is entirely made up. Entirely. Don’t believe a bit of it. When the protected Muslim class kidnapped a teenage UK girl, it was her father the police arrested for disturbing the peace when he tried to rescue her. Brexit don’t fix everything.

    I’m still stunned that the vote count wasn’t rigged.

    Dreher mentioned the article in one of his posts, noted that a friend in Appalachia says, in accordance with Davies, that a) no one has any hope left, and b) they’re all voting Trump. That may be the immediate takeaway of Davies analysis.

    Or to remind you of Jimmy the K’s mantra, politicians are no longer in control. Events are now in control. We delayed the bullet in the 1980s when Alaskan and North Sea oil came online, but now they’re played out and no new oil field looks to be coming to the rescue.

    Events, not politicians, are now in control. Ignore the news and make controlling your own life (without electricity, gasoline, sewers, supermarkets) the focus.

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