“Useless skills” in our modern world

InformationTechnologyArthur – yes, that Arthur, the Kiwi Illinoisan, wrote in response to a recent post of mine. Hmm, I’ll have to ask him, though, what got him to remember another post of mine, that one from a decade ago:


Apart from people under, say, 30 or so, all computery technological stuff has to be learned—we didn’t grow up with it. Most of us, I think, do best when we can migrate what we know to a new setting.

For example, the reason I can fix my blog when things blow up is because I learned useful stuff when I was young(er) that serves me well now that I’m old(er). For example, I can edit the HTML code in my log because I learned to use coding when I used an olde timey wordprocessing program called Wordstar in the 1980s. I still have to look up how to change or fix code in my blog, but I at least basically understand what I have to do because of that earlier training.

In January 2011, you published a post about “useless skills”. I wonder how those “useless skills” help us in our modern tech world. What ones help you?

My wife has a breadmaker, but she would rather create it the old-fashioned way if only so the bread will fit in the toaster.


I think I have soft skills. I can read a map, so if the GPS is not working, or is taking me the wrong way – it’s happened – I can figure out a way home. In a city with a decent, but unfamiliar, mass transit, I can generally negotiate that too.

When I was working, I had a better-than-average chance of finding the answer if it wasn’t available online. This involved using something called the “telephone” and “calling” to “talk” with people. That said, I think a lot of agencies and other entities do not value their institutional wisdom.

Because I’ve moved over 30 times, and have helped others moved at least twice that, I’m really good at packing our car when we’re going on a trip. My wife has told me this repeatedly.

As bad as I am with names, I’m pretty good with numbers. I can figure out a 15% tip or even 8% sales tax sans calculator. I make change with alacrity, so I’ll give the pizza guy $21 for a $10.95 purchase, knowing that one-dollar bills are precious in retail.

Usually, I remember phone numbers, so if the phone/computer address book isn’t available, I’m still OK. Definitely, I know my wife and daughter’s Social Security numbers.

I can name all of the Presidents of the United States, including their years. So I don’t have to “Google it” to help my daughter with her American history homework. Whether she would LET me help her is quite another matter.

Now, there are a few things I can do in my blog – assuming I’m not using the new editor – by hand. And, as Arthur knows, I can keep score in bowling, even during the apocalypse.



Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

4 thoughts on ““Useless skills” in our modern world”

  1. Common sense is a valuable skill. More important than computer skills IMHO.

  2. Who followed Millard Fillmore, sir?!?!?!?

    And what happened to your blog this morning? My shortcut was going somewhere else, then said it couldn’t even go there because something was messed up. Weird. Now it’s back!

  3. Handsome Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). And BTW, Fillmore was the LAST of the 4 Whig Presidents, who collectively served only 8 years!
    And to your question about the blog, I have no idea. I was out of town most of the day, posted the link, and then an old friend from college told me it went to some weird redirect, but it is OK now, I gather.

  4. Yeah I got the redirect yesterday and was momentarily fearful I’d gotten browser highjack malware somehow, and that was what was redirecting me, but it seems to be OK. Maybe a shortlived glitch on your end?

    Eh. I have a lot of “useless skills.” I hope they remain “useless” because if they suddenly become super relevant that means society’s crashed and burned. I’d much rather be able to knit sweaters for fun and fashion than have to make them to barter for food, or so I don’t freeze in the winter.

    I also hope I never again have to use my (rapidly developed last week, hopefully for a one-off situation) skill in being able to deliver a eulogy/Scripture at an interment.

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