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What would you like to know how to do? - Input Junkie
February 8th, 2011
11:19 am

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What would you like to know how to do?
Procedural Knowledge Gaps
I am beginning to suspect that it is surprisingly common for intelligent, competent adults to somehow make it through the world for a few decades while missing some ordinary skill, like mailing a physical letter, folding a fitted sheet, depositing a check, or reading a bus schedule. Since these tasks are often presented atomically - or, worse, embedded implicitly into other instructions - and it is often possible to get around the need for them, this ignorance is not self-correcting. One can Google "how to deposit a check" and similar phrases, but the sorts of instructions that crop up are often misleading, rely on entangled and potentially similarly-deficient knowledge to be understandable, or are not so much instructions as they are tips and tricks and warnings for people who already know the basic procedure. Asking other people is more effective because they can respond to requests for clarification (and physically pointing at stuff is useful too), but embarrassing, since lacking these skills as an adult is stigmatized. (They are rarely even considered skills by people who have had them for a while.)

This seems like a bad situation. And - if I am correct and gaps like these are common - then it is something of a collective action problem to handle gap-filling without undue social drama. Supposedly, we're good at collective action problems, us rationalists, right? So I propose a thread for the purpose here, with the stipulation that all replies to gap announcements are to be constructive attempts at conveying the relevant procedural knowledge. No asking "how did you manage to be X years old without knowing that?" - if the gap-haver wishes to volunteer the information, that is fine, but asking is to be considered poor form.

Topics include cooking, flirting, orientation, exercise, buying stocks, making a will, remembering alphabetical order, jump-starting stalled cars....

It seems like it would make more sense to comment at Less Wrong rather than here (keep the conversation in one place), but I'm not going to insist. Setting up an account there might seem like more trouble than it's worth (and formatting for comments is in Markdown (see help button at lower right of comment box) not html, you might prefer familiar company, or there might be a reason I'm not thinking of.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/468356.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:nancylebov
Date:February 8th, 2011 06:48 pm (UTC)
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I don't know about weird, but considering that they're asking, I think it's ok to answer.

They're trying to get away from the idea that adults should already know all those things.
(Deleted comment)
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 8th, 2011 08:47 pm (UTC)
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That longish reply about exercise needing to be suited to particular people and the changes in theories? I can't see anything problematic about it, and I wouldn't say that replying to Eliezer is a problem, and it had useful information.

I think I went a lot farther in pushing boundaries by suggesting that he might have an undiagnosed medical problem.

As for "sounds retarded" issue, I agree that you did well to not comment when you're that angry. The tone rules are rather different at LW than on LJ. Such topics can be brought up successfully, but swatting people generally isn't welcome.
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From:lisa_marli
Date:February 8th, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
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I do know that my 21 year old son refuses to learn how to tie a shoe lace. Don't ask me why. But he makes sure all his shoes are either slip on or velcro closed and won't buy shoes that have ties. He could learn, but there is NO Desire to learn.
He is still refusing to learn how to balance a check book too.
I know he doesn't want to grow up, but he can be annoying about it. Geeks in College. Some times I really wonder about them.
I know he will be quite happy in his old bedroom for a Long Time. I hope if there is a future wife, that she is real patient.
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From:nancylebov
Date:February 8th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
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It's a project for the things people want to learn.
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From:filkerdave
Date:February 8th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
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FWIW, I know how to balance a checkbook, but I write about a dozen checks a year, max, so I never do it.
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From:terriwells
Date:February 9th, 2011 01:13 am (UTC)
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My initial reaction to this was "If he doesn't want to learn how to balance a check book, he shouldn't have a checking account." But I have a friend who is my age with a checking account who doesn't bother to balance it; when he feels like he needs to know what the balance is, he just looks it up online. It works for him. *shrug*
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From:dcseain
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
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The need to spend within one's means has not gone away, but the way of transacting business has altered dramatically.

I've not balanced a chequebook in... a decade or so i think. With online banking, online payment, computer-based accounting, and ATMs, who needs to balance it? I write at most 3 cheques a year, anyway. The rest of my spending comes out via debit card or ACH.

So, in short, though the basics of the accounting principals are good, i don't really see it as as necessary a skill as it was when i was younger, so long as the individual in the concepts of the evils of deficit spending.
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From:richardthinks
Date:February 8th, 2011 08:57 pm (UTC)
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Cheques! So last century. And France. I'm having to relearn loads of stuff I'd happily forgotten, only in a different idiom.

Folding fitted sheets: who has the energy? roll 'em up, stop worrying, live longer. They weren't designed to be folded.
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From:dcseain
Date:February 9th, 2011 02:56 am (UTC)
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I find folding fitted sheets quite simple, but rolling works just as well. I roll towels by and large.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:February 8th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
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Heinlein had a list of things every human ought to be able to do. It didn't include setting up a wireless router, but I liked his signoff: specialization is for insects.

There are so many things you're supposed to know just for basic navigation. I'm in favour of something like an "instructables" site, all text or text + simple gfx, so you can get it on your cellphone. That would definitely help with fitting a spare tyre or recogmizing diabetes.
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From:richardthinks
Date:February 9th, 2011 07:20 am (UTC)
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That was me, btw.
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