This Is The Age Of Incompetence

February 2nd, 2022 | RR

At some point in our history, we stopped putting effort into the things we do. It can be argued that an excess of long-term prosperity and peace caused this. We became too comfortable, so we became complacent in our wealth. Clean running water, cheap food, endless electricity, easy access to friends and family with the click of a button—it all caused us to become lazy and forgetful. We forgot what it was like to work and to interact with each other. We forgot the lessons of past generations and our amnesia and decadence have set us on a path to catastrophe. 

Because of our security, we became undisciplined and soft on corruption and failure. "As long as we have stability, safety and wealth, who cares if the system is corrupt," everyone quietly mutters. That's the generational mentality we have to deal with. Peter Thiel stated that we are in an era of technological stagnation. I argue that we are in an age of incompetence, which is an outgrowth of our collective laziness. Stagnation is only one of the many byproducts of who we have become. 

Corruption surrounds us, but everyone shrugs. Corruption has deep roots in incompetence and incompetence has roots in laziness. The three are, in many ways, intertwined. Journalists have begun to publish falsehoods more regularly, cars and household appliances break down more frequently, politicians are more easily influenced by lobbyists and billionaires, fewer people own up to their mistakes, the truth has become offensive, more products are cheaply made and defective, infrastructure is crumbling, everything runs over budget, modern roadways and neighbourhoods are poorly designed—and nothing works or functions as good as it used to.

We all know it. We've seen this systemic incompetence for ourselves, but we're too lazy, distracted and complacent to do anything about it. All of us are incompetent.

Systemic incompetence is a byproduct of long-term prosperity and it always leads to corruption, decay and slow death. Other societies have experienced it before us. They became so lazy and secure inside their bubbles of wealth and decadence that real life struggles turned into folklore. Like today, struggle has become a foreign concept to a majority of society and people have become lazier and less efficient.

When losing a job is no longer a matter of life and death, productivity and competence start to decline. Laziness becomes normal to the extent that failing to call out and address laziness becomes, in and of itself, a result of laziness. When a population becomes so wealthy that household goods can be easily replaced, the manufacturers and corporations stop making quality products. If we can all afford to buy new laptops, smartphones and kitchen appliances every couple of years, why should they bother manufacturing anything that lasts? In fact, they're better off producing things that are designed to fail. It's called planned obsolescence and failing to address its corrupt nature is called collective laziness. 

In a lot of other cases, poor quality goods are the result of a lazy and undisciplined labour force that's protected by a bloated, wealthy group of lazy unions. In other cases, they are the result of corporations spending less to manufacture garbage in foreign sweatshops.

Incompetence comes in many shapes and sizes. As systemic incompetence becomes more prevalent, mistakes become progressively more frequent and catastrophic.

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Incompetence is about doing things with minimal effort, for whatever reason, or doing them poorly due to stupidity. You'll notice how politicians have put less effort into hiding their mistakes and covering up their real agendas. You'll notice how journalists have stopped investigating and searching for answers. Fact checkers have done the same. Reporting tweets and statements from government officials as facts takes less effort than digging for the real truth. It's easier to spread pre-written propaganda than it is to uncover what's really happening.

When someone screws up the message and causes chaos, no one takes responsibility and the truth gets poorly and hastily re-written to memory-hole the mistakes. We get told to follow the science and that the science is settled, unless it's not. When mistakes happen and the lies of lazy bureaucrats come to light, they tell us "the science is changing".

We let all of this slide because we are lazy and incompetent. It's so much easier to let it happen and move on. 

You'll notice how fewer people take accountability when they're wrong or when they make a mistake (which seems to be more often). Whether it's the wrong order at the drive-thru or a loose bolt on a fair ride, we get an insincere apology with a deflection and a shrug. Having to think deeply about our actions and their consequences has become too strenuous, while sincerely apologizing has become a direct threat to our narcissism and self-importance. Passing the buck is more normal than apologizing and the negative feelings that come with accepting our own failures have become too onerous.

Printing endless amounts of fiat money is easy and requires minimal effort.

Shutting down the economy and locking it all down was easier than figuring out a more complex and conducive solution. It was ham-fisted, hasty and destructive. How it was handled and the lack of accountability from "experts" who bankrupted economies and cost lives is a perfect reflection of who we have become as a society. Rather than think and rationalize, they reacted. When their mistakes were realized, they said it wasn't their fault. Collectively, we discovered a scorpion in the basement and burned down the whole house to kill it. Then we found out the scorpion survived.

Even the propaganda to cover it all up is half-assed and sloppy, which in turn has diminished the public's trust.

Some will say we don't have a right to call out incompetence when we see it, because we aren't doctors, scientists or engineers. If you believe that, then you shouldn't criticize the new cook at your favourite restaurant who has consistently served you cold, burnt food since he was hired. Don't criticize the mechanic who damaged your engine, or the surgeon who left a sponge inside of you.

Criticism is warranted from all of us and from anyone they have been paid to serve. Those who are educated in a certain field and have certain jobs are expected to be competent at what they do. Whether they're a surgeon, epidemiologist, handyman, accountant, retail clerk, cook or mortgage broker—they are expected to be competent in their fields.

When we see and experience obvious incompetence in any field, we should call it out—regardless of our own expertise in that field. It doesn't always take a certified mechanic to diagnose an incompetent repair job. An average, competent person is able to identify incompetence when it appears. Furthermore, anyone can do a competent job with maximum effort, except in cases of real stupidity and mental disability, which would be defined by the inability to complete tasks due to real, clinical cognitive impairment.  

Incompetence In Alternative Energy

For those who believe in anthropogenic climate change and that fossil fuels are causing dramatic changes to the weather, it's time to start questioning the competence of the scientists tasked with finding alternative energy sources. Why is it that we don't have a reliable and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels? After 100 years, why are we still burning the same fuel?

At some point, we stopped advancing. I talked about this when I wrote about billionaires shooting themselves into space, while we all cheer them on and forget about when we landed people on the Moon more than 60 years ago. To this generation, shooting a billionaire into Earth's lower orbit for ten minutes is as big of an accomplishment as sending people to the Moon multiple times.

Settling for second best is easier than putting in the work to achieve something greater.

"As systemic incompetence becomes more prevalent, mistakes become progressively more frequent and catastrophic."

When did we stop trying? The famed scientist, Nikola Tesla, was working on harvesting and supplying electricity from thin air during the turn of the last century. Many of his experiments showed promise, but were never replicated. Fast forward to today and we're still plugging tangled cords into sockets, struggling with poor battery life and putting pollutants into the air to fuel our homes. Tesla was working on something so complex that younger generations couldn't even comprehend it, so they just set it aside.

More than one hundred years later, our cars and rockets are still propelled by combustion. Sometimes, when we're lucky, they don't explode. 

The company that uses Tesla's name still hasn't figured out a way to make electric cars feasible and affordable. The only people who drive a Tesla are rich liberals whose batteries end up collecting at waste facilities, with no clean options for disposal. To top it off, their cars are being plugged into power grids that are powered by fossil fuels. Moreover, the batteries require cobalt, lithium and various petroleum products to produce. All of those resources damage the environment and require labour and resources to extract.

Nuclear energy is a clean an viable option, but it's too complicated and requires too many steps for younger generations to grasp. It's also less safe, so we can count out the Millennials. Since we're talking about how incompetent we've all become, maybe it is best to steer clear of anything nuclear for now.

After one hundred years, we haven't developed a successful alternative to fossil fuels. Nothing wreaks of incompetence more than the stagnation we have seen inside the world's energy sectors. I mean, what have scientists and engineers been doing this whole time? We know that several corporations and government institutions have actively suppressed new and innovative technologies, but that can't be the only reason. Other technologies and advancements have faced similar suppression in the past, but eventually seen the light of day. 

Even if suppression is the main reason, why has no one put forth the effort to fight it and succeed? 

As for making new discoveries, younger generations of scientists and engineers are too lazy to bother. It's easier to take what we already have and use it differently, rather than develop something totally different and more complex. Putting in the work, money and effort to develop something brand new is just too hard. Millennials and Zoomers ain't got time or patience for that shit. People who succeed at new stuff are, like, totally sus!

You know it's true.

The lazy teenagers you raised are entering the workforce. They just graduated, with honours, from their super sciencey universities that lowered the standards just for them. After four to eight years of crying and bitching to the deans about life being too hard, your kids were able to convince politicians and universities around the world to make life easier for them. Now they can all graduate at the top of their classes with the lowest grades imaginable.

Everyone gets a trophy and degrees are worth less than the paper they're printed on.

On the same topic, if you haven't watched the true story about Christopher Duntsch called Dr. Death, you are missing out on one of this century's most horrific stories of corruption and incompetence. His story is the first of its kind and probably won't be the last. It exemplifies the horrifying consequences of both individual and institutional incompetence and corruption.

If you were ever confused about where some of this incompetence came from, look no further than the nearest mirror. Our prosperity made us weak and fragile, so we lowered our standards because improving ourselves became too much work. History is repeating itself in the same way it always has. Like all the other times, we'll probably learn from it and then forget it.

A few generations will pass and the lessons won't matter, but at least today's children will have an opportunity to build something new from the ashes.

© 2022 Poletical