Have you ever thought about how you ended up knowing how to do so many things? Do you remember learning to tie your laces for the first time? Riding a bike? Driving a car? Those were pretty tricky at first but I bet you didn't do it alone, right? I know that I didn't. In fact, I find it difficult learning new skills on my own. I do much better when I see someone else showing me what to do. Not just telling me or talking me through but actually showing me. I tend to learn the best that way and pick up the skill a lot faster.
It's probably why I am terrible at writing computer programs or flash animation. The only instruction I have had is through reading tutorials and never actually had someone explain the subtle parts that can effect the learning of all that new information. I have the motivation I just don't have the skills and the right instructor.
As we become increasingly dependent on technology I wonder for how long we will actually have human instructors for any skill. Let's take something like how to wash a car. In under 5 minutes I can find a dozen websites or slideshows or videos instructing me how to wash a car, be more efficient and get better results. There was no social interaction, no father-son/mother-son bonding that took place. Just 5 minutes of searching and 5 minutes of reading and now I know a little more about how to wash a car.
I wonder if all information will eventually end up being relayed this way. Will parents simply be caretakers rather than instructors on life skills? Telling their kids to "look it up" if the kids don't know? Or perhaps worse, told "Just pay someone else to do it for you".
Watching The Matrix I always loved that part when Neo is plugged into the machine and he learns how to fight in a million different styles. I used to think learning that way would be great. I just plug myself into my laptop and bam! I know Chinese. But in doing so I've missed out on that bond between instructor and learner. I missed out on overcoming difficulties, building on successes and gaining self-esteem from accomplishing a difficult goal. I've missed out on a lot of great and painful opportunities and taken the easy route.
My best example of this is probably learning to shave. I grew up with my mother and two brothers. My older brother wasn't likely to help me out any so I basically had to learn how to do it myself. I would watch closely and pay attention if it was featured on tv. I remember Homer showing Bart how to shave, cutting himself several times and applying small bits of tissue paper to his face. But I also just asked my friends about it. Especially those who obviously had had to start earlier than me. I would learn from their mistakes or success and then go home and improve. Growing up now I could have looked it up but is that really better in the long run?