I was reading about Gallium metal, and got sidetracked by a debate about math software. The point that got my attention is the contention that civilization is based on an institutionalized principle that we all are incompetent in many important fields. The item being debated was the necessity of children developing skill at long division and such procedures.
The process of civilization arguably began as early man began to specialize. A man who could not hunt to support his family because of a game foot becomes an expert flint knapper, and trades his specialized skill for the products of the more common skill of hunting. He passes this skill on to his sons, who never become competent hunters. A grandchild might become a more specialized expert at finding fine-grained stones. And so on.
How many people do you know who can pass a wilderness survival test? How do they survive in spite of their total incompetence to make it on their own? Civilization. Before we developed specializations, everyone had a total wilderness survival skill set. Now, most people wouldn’t recognize an edible plant if it was planted in rows. Can you tell hemlock from parsley or carrots?
We are all massively incompetent, and things have never been better.
Except that we now accept incompetence from those who are supposed to be the experts. A politician is not elected because he is the best at managing his constituency; he is elected because his handlers are the best at getting him elected. Products are hot because of clever promotion, not product quality.
The real question becomes one of orders of ignorance. How important is it for people to be aware of what it is that they are not aware of? Should people at least learn what subjects there are that they would need to know about if we were subjected to a lower level of civilization?
Religion and politics (each arguably a force to be reckoned with) both depend on the majority being sufficiently ignorant about those fields. Other than that, there is no excuse for people to not have at least a rough idea of how much they don’t know. But then, I know that I am incompetent in the fields of education and social anthropology. So take all this with a grain of gestalt.