The Information Age

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I only recently became aware that John McCain doesn't know how to use a computer. I suppose it's not that shocking, a lot of people his age aren't necessarily adept with newish technologies and a U.S. Senator is in a position to have his computing done for him. Still, I could see having some concerns about the leadership of someone who doesn't use the dominant new technology of our time. Eve Fairbanks reports that Mark SooHoo, deputy e-campaign manager for McCain, had this to say on the matter at the Personal Democracy Forum:

You don’t necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.

I dunno. Do you have to use a computer to understand how it shapes the country? I think you might. If we had a president who didn't know how to drive a car, that would probably strike us as pretty odd. But I think you could plausibly claim that you don't necessarily have to have a driver's license in order to understand how automobiles shape the country. But that's because we assume that even someone who doesn't have a license has still been in cars sees highways, onramps and offramps, parking lots, quiet winding roads, overpasses, bridges, etc. If you hadn't done any of that stuff, then I think it really would be difficult to understand the implications of the technology.

But while people ride as passengers in cars all the time, I would imagine that someone who doesn't use a computer doesn't peer over the shoulder of his staff either. And under those circumstances, I think it really might be difficult to understand. But of course that's a defeasible assumption -- McCain could say something really insightful about information technology and its implications for politics and society and I guess we'd have to say "wow, that was smart." But I don't think he's done so and I don't think I'm going to hold my breath waiting.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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