The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Beware the technician.

In this ever increasingly technical world, no-one can be an expert on everything. There are so many different technologies with their own ways and foibles, that, only in the tv series Eureka, can there be a character like Henry Deacon, who knows everything about every technology there is to know. In the real world, we each have time to learn a field, or several (in the case of the very bright) – but we can never master them all, not now, anyway, not in the complex modern world. Thus, it is, that we are at the mercy of technicians, in a way that makes us vulnerable.

Today, I tested the broadband speed on my Maxis connection. For several months, now, we have suffered from an unbelievably slow connection. It would, for instance, take up to 45 minutes to log in to Other sites, too, would take a very long time to load, though Yahoo held the record. It was almost as if we were having to print out a letter and walk to our correspondent with it and give it to them personally – that is how slow it was. I was rather shocked to learn that my Maxis broadband connection was just 0.04 Mbps (Megabits per second), for both upload and download. That is slower than a twenty year old dial up connection would have been.

I duly called Maxis and asked them why my connection was so slow. At first, they trotted out the story we have heard every time I have complained before: you must have exceeded your data limit for the month. I pointed out that the new month began yesterday and that there was no way on this Earth I had exceeded it in one day.

“In that case…”, he began and then directed me to check my type of connection.

“GSM only.”, I said, reading the screen before me.

He almost spluttered. “GSM only?”, he repeated, to check what he had heard.

“Yes. GSM Only.”

“Change it to WCDMA only.”, he said, his voice a little tense, “GSM is 2G, this is 3G. 2G is a very slow connection – it is GPRS.”

He spoke in acronyms which seemed to mean something special to him. However, I gathered his essential meaning.

“That is strange.”, I said, to him, recalling: “One of your technicians told us to put it to GSM only.”

“When was that?”, he countered, somewhat defensively.

“Several months ago.”

His only answer to that was an uncomfortable silence.

So, now I understood why we had had to endure such an abominably slow connection these past several months – it was the direct result of mistaken advice from a Maxis technician.

I changed the connection to WCDMA. Then I tested the speed again. This time it was over a Mbps…much quicker.

The incident made me understand, though, how much we have to place our trust in those who take care of our technical needs. Very few of us are in a position to know whether a particular piece of technical advice is good or bad. We have no way of determining whether the technician is solving a problem, or making one. We just have to trust that they know what they are doing. The problem is, that sometimes they don’t know what they are doing – or they make a poor judgement call. It is then that we suffer from our technologies, without ever really knowing why.

This leads to another thought. How would the world run, if all the specialized technicians suddenly disappeared? What would happen if there were a widespread loss of knowledge about how these systems work? Very soon, the entire technical infrastructure of our society would begin to fail, irreparably. All that we take for granted, would soon disappear. Given this, then, how odd is it that technicians, generally are not a respected element of society? They are looked down upon, as being of lower status than, for instance, managers, or lawyers. Yet, without the technicians, managers would soon have nothing to manage, and lawyers would have great difficulty communicating with their clients.

Our society is held together and depends upon people who may not be much regarded, whose contributions may be overlooked – yet, without them, nothing that we take for granted would be, at all.

So, I have to thank the Maxis technician today, one “Jay”, for correcting the problem created by another Maxis technician whose name I do not know. Without that correction, I would have to spend a very long time indeed, waiting for my internet connection to allow me to post.

It is easy to forget that everything in life conveys its own lessons. Today, I learnt of the value of technicians, by being shown what happens when they don’t know their work, well. So, what lesson have you learnt today? Who taught you it, and how?

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:49 PM 


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