Monday, August 4, 2008

Should our next President be tech-savvy?

Yesterday I was reading the print edition of the Sunday New York Times and came across an article called “Hail to The Twitterer” by Marc Leibovich. Online it is called "McCain, The Analog Candidate". Not sure why there are different titles.

The article is about how John McCain can’t use a computer and whether that’s OK. He’s trying to change his image—he says he reads emails now when his staffers show them to him. I’m not sure if that should count as technological literacy.

Of course, not everyone needs to embrace technology. But there are certain jobs (President being one) where it would be helpful. White House staff can handle the email and Google look-ups, but if the leader of the country has little direct experience with the technology that is transforming our world it could have serious implications.

What do you think?

The author even harkens back to Abraham Lincoln, who apparently was an early adopter of technology. He was out there chatting with his Civil War generals via telegraph when others were still hoofing it. I will include the NYT excerpt from Abe's “Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements” (1859) lecture here, because how many opportunities will there be to quote Abraham Lincoln on this blog?

The great difference between Young America and Old Fogy is the result of Discoveries, Inventions and Improvements. These, in turn, are the result of observation, reflection and experiment. For instance, it is quite certain that ever since water has been boiled in covered vessels, men have seen the lids of the vessels rise and fall a little, with a sort of fluttering motion, by force of the steam; but so long as this was not specially observed, and reflected, and experimented upon, it came to nothing. At length, however, after many thousand years, some man observes this long-known effect of hot water lifting a pot-lid, and begins a train of reflection upon it. He says “Why, to be sure, the force that lifts the pot-lid will lift anything else, which is no heavier than the pot-lid. And, as man has much hard lifting to do, cannot this hot-water power be made to help him?” He has become a little excited on the subject, and he fancies he hears a voice answering “Try me.”

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