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Skill and technology


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  • #3749647
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    Grant Petersen, Bicycle Sentences

    “The more skill you have, the less technology you need; the more technology you have, the less skill you’ll develop or maintain.”

    – Grant Petersen, “Bicycle Sentences”

    #3749693
    Jon Fong
    BPL Member

    @jonfong

    Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR

    It’s funny, I think about this a lot.  For example, I really should know more about tying knots.  It is a very usefull tool, I just need to get off my butt and do it.

    #3749694
    David Hartley
    BPL Member

    @dhartley

    Locale: Western NY

    I guess an example of this is the use of cellphones and GPS enabled mapping vs paper maps and compass – although the availability of the former makes accurate navigation available to the masses – who were never going to be expert navigators with map and compass (and yes, with all of the downsides of people getting in over their heads and needing rescue and masses of people roaming around previously inaccessible areas).

    I’m not sure this is generally true in all cases though. For highly skilled people – the availability of technology is a force multiplier. An example of this is that technology has enabled highly skilled engineers to develop products like the cellphones that make technology accessible to the less skilled.

    #3749724
    Mina Loomis
    BPL Member

    @elmvine

    Locale: Central Texas

    Knots are both “skills” *and* “technology.”  Pretty ancient technology.

    #3749729
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    For highly skilled people – the availability of technology is a force multiplier.

    Yes. It shouldn’t be either/or, but both/and. I.E. map and compass skills are great, but so is whipping out a smartphone and calculating the mileage to a distant saddle on GAIA while hardly losing a step.

    #3749731
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    there may be another wrinkle. Technology enables multitasking. And it makes possible a kind of non stop productivity on our part. We can always fill our time, our steps, with another task that technology makes available. This becomes defined as ‘bettering ourselves’…non stop; or more likely, simply never leaving our jobs. Not having to stop and locate ourselves on a map, and the features around us (metaphor alert!) means that we can press on more efficiently towards our goal. This is one seductive aspect of technology. it promises that we can be ‘on’ all the time, like a computer.

    We’re not devices.

    We live in a culture where the idea of a Sabbath seems anathema. Why would we want to shut everything down and just rest? Such a waste of time!

    #3749732
    MJ H
    BPL Member

    @mjh

    I’m bad at knots. I learned in cub scouts, forgot, learned to teach cub scouts, forgot again. But I have a book of knots on my phone. Close as I’m going to get to learning again now that guy lines come with little slide-things.

    #3749735
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    Not having to stop and locate ourselves on a map, and the features around us (metaphor alert!) means that we can press on more efficiently towards our goal. This is one seductive aspect of technology. it promises that we can be ‘on’ all the time, like a computer.

    Were you not an athlete at some point? If I remember right, XC skiing? I’m still hooked on the joy of being lost in motion, breathing hard, nothing slowing me down, keeping pace, doing the miles. Maybe moving efficiently towards a goal is a still an end in itself for some of us, on some trips? Perhaps technology is simply a means to help with this end, not some great, all-consuming evil.

    As I see it, physically speaking, the great Sabbath will be squarely upon me one day, whether I like it or not. Better let the fire burn bright while it still can. There’s a a time and place for all of it. Rest assured, I know how to rest ;)

    #3749737
    MJ H
    BPL Member

    @mjh

    Knots are both “skills” *and* “technology.” Pretty ancient technology.

    That’s a good point. I don’t think it’s possible or important to draw the line exactly, but lots of people think that the technological things around when they were young are somehow natural even though some of it, like what knots optimized to work with nylon cord, are obviously every bit as artificial as the little plastic slide thing I use to tighten the guy line.

    #3749738
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Oh yes, I absolutely loved the sense of my body in motion, still do! Swimming too: the slow weightless rocking from one side to the other to catch breath every three strokes while my arms and legs are moving in synchrony.

    On backpacking trips, we’re usually on a Sabbath in the large sense. Of course we need to make the next camp or find the hidden pass or summit a peak. All of this is play. Play is where we find aspects of ourselves and life that have…deep meaning. So the injunction to Sabbath is really, to leave off work and play. We aren’t getting paid for this, in the world’s terms.  But, back in the world, I think it’s undeniable that technology has enabled a kind of non stop productivity that I’m really conflicted about.

    Are we losing the ability to spend many hours alone in a room–Pascal’s question. Or…find time to go out into nature.

    #3749739
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

     But, back in the world, I think it’s undeniable that technology has enabled a kind of non stop productivity that I’m really conflicted about.

    Are we losing the ability to spend many hours alone in a room–Pascal’s question. Or…find time to go out into nature.

    100% conflicted about that too. To your earlier point…yes, rest! We are no good to anyone if we are not good to ourselves.

    I’m familiar with Pascal’s quote and think on it often…I wonder if it was actually not meant as something to aspire to, but instead he was alluding to the impossibility of it, that it is simply not our nature…but not necessarily for the better.

    #3749763
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    I have so many thoughts on this topic and the quote, which is from one of my favorite thinkers and definitely my favorite bicycle designer. One of my few regrets in life was not buying a Bridgestone X0-2 or X0-1 while I was back in college.

    Professional Life Story
    I teach digital art/design in the magnet visual arts program for a large, urban high school district. I have a BFA in product design with an emphasis on furniture design. I spent the 90s totally immersed in fabrication and developed very strong hand skills. In the early 2000s I transitioned towards graphic design via signage and then took an adjunct position at a local college teaching an introductory graphic design class. I became a full time instructor, went to grad school (graphic design this time) earned the title of professor and spent 16 years teaching graphic design. The grad school I attended encouraged graphic design students to integrate non-digital techniques into our design practice. We were pushed to enrich our work with the richness that non-digital (note I am not saying “traditional”) techniques because of the richness and engaging ambiguities that can be achieved using physical materials. It was a revelation and changed who I am as a designer and teacher.

    Now that I teach digital art/design I constantly look for ways to integrate collage, printmaking, found objects, and photography (including traditional photographic techniques) into my personal projects and class assignments. I’ve invested a lot of annual budget in vinyl plotters, 3D printers, projectors, and archaic printing devices (any Risograph fans here?). I have a manual typewriter in my classroom.

    Grant Peterson is flat-out wrong here, at least outside of the world of bicycles. Skill and technology are not opposites and one does not negate the other. For me, at least, the true path integrates technology without relying on it as the full answer. I design things on computers, print them out as separations, manipulate them with a photocopier, ink, and collage and then scan them in as the basis of an animated piece that is projected onto an object.

    As a hiker, I know always have paper maps on me and I know how to use them pretty well even I’m not a level 27 Map Wizard. I also use my phone because it can verify my position on the map – am I where I think I am on my paper map? My phone provides alternate map types and I can toggle slope shading on and off. It’s quite handy but I have also had my phone fail in the backcountry for two different reasons on the same long trip and I did fine with my paper maps.

    Framing the issue as technology vs. skills is incorrect, at least for me. It’s better to engage skills and technology.

    #3749764
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    Context for anyone familiar with bicycles and not familiar with Grant Peterson. Please forgive if I’m oversimplifying, I am out of the bicycle world after two traumatic brain injuries in my family due to bicycle accidents.

    Grant is focused on producing lugged steel bicycles that use relatively traditional, simple parts. One example of technology which he eschews is the use of indexed shifters which emerged in the early 90s (late 80s?). He’s totally right about this stuff in the bike world. Indexed shifting takes a simple skill and turns it into something that requires zero skill. The bummer with indexed shifting is  the system is extremely intolerant of faults which makes it harder to adapt to problems in the field. Yes, indexed shifting is slightly faster and makes sense for a bike racer with a support crew who maintains their bike regularly and has spare bikes on the roof of the team car but for the rest of us it makes sense to spend an extra .3 seconds shifting so that we can manually trim our derailers and deal with a little cable stretch or misalignment without having to stop at a bike shop mid-ride.

    #3749772
    Chris K
    BPL Member

    @cmkannen-2-2

    Maybe one way to define technology is our collective skill over time.

    Matthew, thanks for putting this in context, re Grant and bikes and your personal history. I agree with you, and everyone here, that it’s always some mixture both. They are fully entangled. The proportion of each dictates the experience, I suppose? Despite being a little misguided in the framing, I feel like what Grant is getting at has so much in common with the approaches we take and talk about here.

    I’m sorry to hear about your family members’ injuries.

    #3749775
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    Professional Life Story…

    Great post Matthew.

    Re: bikes, a topic I love, I happen to be my ~3000 person school’s resident bike mechanic, tuning and fixing ~3-5 student or faculty bikes per week in the shop I’ve built in an office in my studio here. Regarding indexed shifting, I’d argue the difficulties are greatly exaggerated by the friction shifting community with one caveat. All of my indexed bikes shift true for a LONG time. And when they don’t…a 1/4 twist of a barrel adjuster and we’re back on track. Which takes us back to skill AND technology…If you have the skills and understanding, the technology is quite simple to use and maintain. Now, for people that cannot be bothered to learn bicycle maintenance…friction would probably be easier to maintain in the long run…provided they bother learning how to shift! (I’m amazed at how many people ride bicycles that don’t really know how to ride bicycles. I.E. probably 70% of the people whose bikes I service refuse to use their front brake and don’t really understand shifting.)

    #3749776
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    isn’t the front break the one that causes you to flip over? :)

    #3749777
    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member

    @xnomanx

    isn’t the front break the one that causes you to flip over? :)

    Every single time!

    And if you’re not flipping over due to using the front brake, you’re fishtailing and skidding into curbs, walls, and cars because you’re only using the rear. Bikes are death machines.

    #3749778
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I put my 1970s Schwinn bike on the street with a “free” sign on it

    My wife’s 2000 bike is in the garage with flat tires.  Maybe some day I’ll fix it and ride it.

    I don’t really want to die just yet.

    #3749798
    Mark Wetherington
    BPL Member

    @markweth

    Locale: Western Montana

    Good discussion. I really appreciated jscott’s insight about technology (and life in general, I suppose). Efficiency should be a means to an end, not the end itself. If technology provides me with a way to be more efficient so I can spend more time appreciating an activity, I’m all for it. But taking the time to learn a new skill related to technology when my current kit or approach is working well enough for me just doesn’t add much value to the equation in my experience.

    #3749806
    matthew k
    Moderator

    @matthewkphx

    All of my indexed bikes shift true for a LONG time. And when they don’t…a 1/4 twist of a barrel adjuster and we’re back on track.

    Totally agree. I think Grant’s objection is largely philosophical more than an actual problem. I suppose friction shifters are more tolerant of mismatched brands or product lines this is not really a huge problem in real life.

    I feel like what Grant is getting at has so much in common with the approaches we take and talk about here.

    100% agree and while I disagree with the quote, it has prompted a nice conversation here :)

    #3749930
    David Gardner
    BPL Member

    @gearmaker

    Locale: Northern California

    I built up a Mountain Cycles San Andreas frame in 1992 with a full Shimano XTR gruppo, the top of the line, with indexed shifters. Those shifters were great in a lot of ways and worked well for 20 years. Until they didn’t.

    The one controlling the rear derailuer suddenly wouldn’t shift at all…in the middle of a 60+ mile dayride in the desert. Fortunately I had my full tool kit with me and was able to break the chain, take out something like a foot of chain, bypass the rear deraileur, and reconnect the chain directly from the middle chain ring (back when dinosaurs went off road with triple chainrings) to the largest rear cog and was able to keep riding in a low, slow gear.

    Since then I’m fine with indexed shifters for local rides, but for long and multi-day rides in the middle of nowhere I only use friction thumb shifters now.

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