Information Society

It’s hard to remember that the majority of people rely upon ‘professionals’ to know things for them.

Being the information-junkie/knowledge-addict I am (as mentioned in my last post), I’m the person who wants to know the why behind the what. I tend to research anything that impacts me greatly… the internet search engine was one of my dreams come true. I don’t really know how well I’d function without ready access to complex information when I want it.

I used to practically live in my schools’ libraries as a kid.

In grade school, I knew all the librarians quite well – in junior high, I spent my lunch hours volunteering in the library (thereby avoiding the whole social-drama that is lunchtime at junior high) and got to know the head librarian so well that she took me out to lunch at the end of the year as a thank you. In high school, I got sucked into computers during the early stages of the Personal Computing revolution – but still spent a ton of time in the library, as the 1200 baud modem wasn’t exactly going to get me insta-access to anything useful.

I suppose you can blame my parents. As children, whenever my brother and I would ask a complex question (why is the sky blue? what causes a rainbow?) we were met with the challenge “well, I suppose you ought to go find that out – you’ve got one week to get back to me with an answer…” and when the week was up, you’d better know, because they seldom forgot to check back.

As an adult, this tends to lead to me being an “informed consumer.”

I don’t just blindly put faith in someone else’s opinion simply because s/he has a title. If my car mechanic recommends a part or procedure – he’d better be prepared to explain why, and he’d better expect that if I don’t already know about the functionality of said part, I’ll be researching it independently before I give a go-ahead. If my doctor dispenses advice or an Rx, she already knows that she’s better off not ‘dumbing down’ the explanation. So does my dentist. And my hair dresser.

Why, you ask, am I blathering on about this?

Well, in a way, possessing too much information is a double-edged sword. Knowing what to do but not being able to do it is often infuriating.

Take today for instance.

Buttercup has croup. This is the 5th time in 5 years that she’s gotten it at this time of year. The symptoms are the same. The progression is the same. The treatment is the same. When she gets to the point she is at today (losing voice, swollen throat) we go to the doctor’s office – and they give her a shot of an oral steroid to reduce the swelling, and we treat with Motrin/ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory and fever reducer. Given that it’s viral, that’s about all you can do.

But as easy as that sounds – in order to achieve this, we had to drive 1/2 an hour away to her pediatrician and spend 2 hours waiting due to the abundant crowds (hey! guess what? croup is going around right now!) in order to spend 5 minutes with a doctor who confirmed exactly what I said above and had a nurse come in to give her the steroid – then drive 1/2 an hour back home. 3 hours to do something that should take 5 minutes.

But it can’t take 5 minutes – because the “normal” person out there can’t be trusted with medicine. The “normal” person out there doesn’t read the label… doesn’t think to check for drug interactions in advance, doesn’t worry about side-effects until after they’ve manifested, doesn’t keep up on medical advances that are pertinant to them. The “normal” person overdoses their infant on cold & cough medication, requiring the manufacturers to recall the drugs not because there’s a problem with them, but because there’s a problem with the users.

So because the “normal” person is too stupid to use a little common sense – those of us who do maintain half-a-clue are prohibited from accessing things like prescritpion only drugs.

Unless I wanted to go to medical school and cosmetology school, I can’t have access to simple things like medicine or even hair-dye (yeah, you can use that crap in a box they sell at the grocery store, I know what professional lines and colors work with my hair and how to achieve those effects – but without a board-certified license? I can’t buy them.)

One of the sharpest sys-admins I know doesn’t have a college degree. This keeps him out of many, many job opportunities where the gate-keepers say that ‘applicants must have Bachelors Degree in field.’ I used to teach CIS – and I can tell you that I saw hundreds of students graduating with ‘degrees in the field’ who would be hard pressed to boot up a server, let alone admin one… yet here’s this guy who is pretty much a wizard at it who gets overlooked 99 out of 100 times. Every company he has worked for has ended up lauding him and wondering why they can’t find more like him.

There is a tendency in today’s world to think that a label means something. I’m really not sure where that came from, or whose idea it was to foster it. If I had to guess, it was the lawyers. After all, the concept of having to go to an ‘accredited law school’ and pass a Bar exam before being allowed to practice law is a relatively modern one. There are still a few states in the U.S. in which the only requirement is passing the bar – if one can do so without attending law school.

Still, in every ‘profession’ there seems to come a point where there is a push to ‘legitimize’ some practioners while ostracizing or banning others. As recently as World War II, women without any nursing experience or education at all were allowed to enlist in the armed services as nurses. Today, it requires years of schooling and test taking.

I could go on with examples… but I’m sure that would simply be overkill. If anyone is still even reading at this point, that is.

In the end, what is frustrating for me is the number of times I’ve had someone ask me if I’ve had formal training in whatever arena we are dealing with ‘because I know so much about it.’ All I can think is “why doesn’t everyone?” Why doesn’t the average person read the insert in the box that comes with medicine? Why doesn’t s/he ask the dentist what tool they are using? Why doesn’t s/he take 10 minutes to research something so pertinent to his/her own health and well-being rather than say, watching the latest episode of Desperate Housewives?

It really makes no sense to me. I guess it won’t make sense to my daughter either – since she’ll be schooled in the ‘that’s a good question, you’ve got a week to give me an answer’ method early on as well. But sometimes I just wish I could call the pharmacy and say “listen, my daughter takes the following medicines, she has no known drug allergies, she has croup and needs an oral steroid to reduce the swelling in her throat and vocal chords. I’ve done the research, there’s no conflicts in the PDR, she’s never had an issue with it in the 4 previous instances, and I know the correct dosage for her weight is XX ml… can you please get some ready for us? Thanks!” and know that they would.

Yeah. And I want to win the lottery too.

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~ by Lucretia on November 5, 2007.

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