Infinite Choices

Day 7 Week 1 Q1  Saturday, January 7, 2023

Most of us have accumulated more books than we can read, more music than we can listen to, and more projects we can ever start, never mind possibly complete. And here is another infinity to throw on the pile, apps. Do you also accumulate apps more quickly than you can master them? In fact, can apps even be mastered anymore?

In the dark ages, we used to be able to click on every menu option and see what an app can do as a quick way to get your arms around a new tool. In fact, prior to this, you could understand everything an operating system could do in the same way. What are you saying there is a difference between an app and an operating system? Then how do browsers fit in? Welcome to the infinity club. Many of our tools have now exceeded our ability to know what they are capable of, never mind mastering them.

My tools have entered the same infinity club as music, books, magazines and books. We are easily able to accumulate more stuff than we can ever use, but the tool category is a special one because we do need to acquire some level of mastery to get things done that we want to get done. Computers used to have only a handful of tools, a word processor, a spreadsheet and a database. And there were not very many choices of these. In fact, you could literally own all of the apps in any category that existed, much as you could read all of the books in your local library about a specific topic. This was why my family tended to have several different library cards, so we could go to other libraries and read all of their books on Whatever topic caught our fancy. When I was thirteen, I read all of the books on photography in several branches of the Brooklyn Public Library, and there were a lot, in the hundreds, not the tens.

I guess two thousand years ago; you could probably have read all of the books in the Alexandria library. When the world went virtual physical inventory went away, and everything became seemingly infinite. I used to think there were topics I knew everything about, but this is no longer possible. New information is being published at such an astounding rate that I do not even know what mastery means anymore.

We all have to give up thinking we are omniscient, that is if we ever thought we were.  Doctors no longer know more than all of their patients and have become more like very high-level consultants than the authoritarian sages they once were.

I keep shrinking the size of the domains I get involved with, hoping to get my arms around them totally. Still, it is never going to happen, for new information is being generated more quickly than the old stuff can be digested but back to the original topic and why, although troublesome to giant egos, it is thrilling to others.

For example, there is a category of music apps called digital audio workstations or DAWs, and these applications are used to create music. I am amazed to discover that even apps I have been using for years have many capabilities I never heard of or am only tangentially aware of. There is a handful of these powerful music-creating applications that are the big guns used by professionals. Even if we only look at the top two or three of the tens of available choices, they, too, are infinite.  Even if someone is a high-speed reader, each of these apps has documentation that exceeds 1000 pages.  And it is growing every year. If in order to do your job, you need to master only a few apps, we are talking about reading more words than a patent attorney has to read in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP).

Apps are now capable of so many different things as well as being upgraded all of the time that it is probably impossible to know everything there is to know about an app. I am both constantly delighted and constantly frustrated when using these behemoth applications.  And for the same reason. I can no longer claim to achieve mastery of more than a fraction of the capabilities and continue to discover more and more of them every time I try to do something I thought was simple.

Infinite Choice may spell the end of Mastery or at least cause the word to have to be redefined, just like the apps and the operating systems and the computers they run on. If you are determined to be a sage on a stage who knows more than everyone in the room about anything, give it up, it is impossible. It is time to become a Guide on the Side.