I’m not referring here to ignorance in the pejorative sense but rather as a simple lack of learned knowledge.
In times past a person knowledgeable in their field would be trained in not only the ‘what’ of an object but also the ‘why’ and ‘how’. It wasn’t sufficient for a skilled auto mechanic to simply know what a part did, he also had to know how it worked and understand why it was important. It was similar for any tradesperson or other professional and that knowledge was what separated them from us, the ignorant, as it were. They had their secrets and we employed them to get access to that knowledge.
But today? More and more of those secrets are now available to the world through Google, YouTube, and the other great equalizers of the internet world. Who cares what a link arm does? It’s sufficient to know you need them and there are thousands upon thousands of YouTube videos that explain how to diagnose a faulty suspension component and replace it with minimal fuss. There’s probably even one for your specific make and model of vehicle in order to make it really simple. So now you’re an ‘expert’.
Case in point.
I’m currently working on a small electronics project. I am not an electronics engineer, nor do I have any electronics training beyond basic high school physics. I couldn't design a circuit from scratch to save my life. However, armed with nothing more than an idea for this project I started digging. Google came up with numerous sites of folks who had done something similar and who shared their tips, tricks, and circuit designs. Likewise YouTube offered up a few dozen videos showing how others had tackled similar problems.
With that information I was able to create and build a circuit that does what I want but which I don’t really understand. I have a 220 ohm resistor in there because that’s what someone else said I needed. I’m still not completely sure why it’s there and why it’s that specific resistance. Ditto for the capacitors and diodes and all the other little bits and pieces of which I only vaguely know their purpose.
It works – which is a good thing – but I feel a bit like I cheated, not having earned the right to create something without having been schooled in the underpinnings of the technology. It’s a bit like claiming to be Van Gogh because I’m adept at paint-by-numbers. Or, I suppose, a better example might be the baker who can churn out loaf after loaf of delicious bread without ever understanding the chemistry behind the process, or developing their own recipes.
It is but one of the many, many ways technology has significantly changed our world. But still, somewhere, sometime, someone has to be the creator, the designer, the chemist. And as long as they continue to share the fruits of their expertise and creativity the rest of us can continue living in the age of ignorance.