Technology killing off vital skills – Part 2

Two months ago I wrote a post commenting on an article in The Daily Mail Online on how the increase of technology is causing a decline in other, what some consider to be, vital skills. If you recall, I measured up pretty well with skills like map-reading and fire-starting, and aside from the potential need to perhaps Google how to make certain knots (like if, for example, I decide to actually become a pirate), I’d be quite able to survive without my smart phone.

You should know by now never to take any promise I make on this blog seriously, like the promise I made to tackle the second half of that list within the week. But let’s remedy that, shall we?

Handwriting. Here I concede victory without a fight. I was always a straight-A student, except for handwriting. Printing or cursive didn’t matter. I sucked at it. In the lower grades it was the only subject where I maintained a steady C with the occasional D. I took to typing like a fish to water and only write when I absolutely have to.

I can fully believe that true penmanship is in decline thanks to typing. Is that a bad thing? You decide.

Knitting. I don’t really know if this is a vital skill. If we were going post-apocalyptic I’d rank sheep shearing, spinning and weaving much higher than knitting. You need wool before you can knit, after all. That aside, I could knit at one point. And embroider. Hazard of growing up with sisters. If pressed I’m sure I could even remember how. It’s like riding a bike, isn’t it?

Rusty barbed wire
Confused? Me too, but the picture was the one of the first results when I searched “knitting”, so barbed wire it is.

Remembering phone numbers. And bank account, credit card and ID/social security numbers. This is most definitely a vital skill. What if your phone gets stolen or need to be reset and you never did figure out how to sync your address book? The number of times I’ve seen friends post requests on Facebook for contact details so they can repopulate their unplanned data loss.

So sure, you’ll never remember everyone’s numbers (we had address books before smart phones after all), but surely you can memorise at least you parents’, children’s’ and significant other’s numbers, along with one or two important personal numbers. I always enjoy the incredulous looks people give me when, on occasion, I rattle off the wife’s identification number while she’s still rummaging around in her purse for her ID book.

Identifying trees, insects and flowers. Really? Aside from knowing what will kill you and what you can eat if you’re really desperate, how is this a vital skill? Know the difference between hemlock and lettuce, by all means, or even between poison ivy and the regular stuff, but knowing the tree I’m climbing to escape a ravenous wolf is an oak or a pine is not going to matter to me. All that’s going to matter is whether I can climb it or not. Tree climbing. Now there’s a vital skill. Along with knowing how to get over a fear of heights.

Touch typing. Okay, now I’m confused. I get handwriting being in decline due to technology. Because everyone is typing. So how is typing in decline due to technology? Millions of people depend every day on touch typing to do their jobs: writers, programmers, secretaries, teachers… The ability to type at a certain speed is crucial to getting some jobs.

Of course there is the thumb tribe. One can only hope they’ll at one point realise the need to learn to type properly.

Clay oven
My grandma actually built one of these (albeit somewhat smaller) when she was already in her sixties. Sadly I don’t have a photo of hers.

Baking bread. Like knitting, I reckon there are other, more vital skills, that supersede this. Like agricultural skills to actually cultivate, harvest and thresh wheat and grind it into flowers; milking cows (and keeping cows, for that matter); rearing chickens; masonry skills so you can actually build an oven; the ability to make a fire… And if you think about it, as long as people have lived in villages and towns bakers were considered tradesmen on par with blacksmiths, cobblers and taxidermists. Not knowing how to bake bread was the norm for most people long before Skynet Google started taking over the world.

Taking up trousers. You know where this is going, don’t you? One: knowing how to make trousers is a much more vital skill, and two: how is this technology’s fault? I’ve got nothing.

And lastly, wiring a plug. Put aside for a moment that the electric plug is just about a symbol for technology, I agree that this is a vital skill, and I also agree that it’s a skill that is dying out. But it’s dying out because the trend nowadays is to replace rather than fix. This is not technology’s fault, but our society’s consumer mentality.

Quick tutorial/memory trick for this one: With the prongs of the plug pointing away from you, bLue wire Left, bRown wire Right and the remaining one goes in the middle. That’s assuming you’re not in one of the countries that use red, black or white wires, in which case I can’t help you.

The Daily Mail article also has a list of skills that they consider essential in modern day life which I will get to at some indeterminate date in the future, but for now over to you. Which of there do you think are really vital skills? Which skills do you consider vital that are not listed here? Will you survive the inevitable collapse of modern civilisation? Or will they find your emaciated corpse in a dilapidated house, thumbs pressed to the screen of a long dead smart phone? Tell me in the comments.

Images courtesy of

4 thoughts on “Technology killing off vital skills – Part 2

  1. I very much doubt if anyone will ever find my emaciated corpse … I will be eaten LONG before I have a chance to become emaciated.

    Vital skills? Jeepers, who came up with the original list? How about making fire … building a shelter … making rope … knowing what direction you’re traveling in … hunting and fishing…

    Yep. Definitely gonna get eaten… sigh

    1. You, get eaten? I can’t believe that for a second. Anyone who lives in the wilderness as you do surely have the requisite skills to make it if push comes to shove. Besides, boer maak ‘n plan!

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