A Mind Made Clearer by Experience

by Don Boudreaux on August 18, 2009

in Complexity & Emergence, Entertainment, Everyday Life, Hubris and humility, Seen and Unseen, The Economy, Work

One of my and Thomas’s favorite shows is the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, hosted by Mike Rowe.  This show is enjoyable for several reasons, not the least of which is Mike Rowe’s engaging personality.  But the show — which is totally unscripted — excels at revealing the incredible division of labor that characterizes our economy.

What strikes me about each episode of Dirty Jobs isn’t so much how dirty and dangerous many jobs are, but how unfamiliar and how highly specialized these jobs are.  How many of us know that people are employed to ‘sex’ baby alligators while others are employed to ‘sex’ baby chickens (that is, to determine the sex of each of these farmed animals)?  How many people know that some of our fellow human beings are gainfully employed to collect owl vomit?  How many of us know of the many different skills required to make a modern salt mine work?  Are aware of the astonishingly expensive and specialized machinery that many of these workers use in their daily jobs?

It’s a great show.  I encourage you to watch it.

I also encourage you to watch this 20-minute long speech that Mike Rowe recently delivered in Silicon Valley.  He makes several excellent points.  Note especially his wisdom at becoming aware of his own ignorance – the ignorance that inevitably cloaks each of us – and the important lesson that he learns from real-world experience.  (HT Michael Strong)

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MatTrue August 18, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Mike’s show and his TED talk gave me a new appreciation of individuality and human capital. It’s something the political elite in this country have never understood. One of Obama’s major campaign bribes, er, pledges was to “make college more affordable”. What about forgoing college and serving your fellow human beings by learning a valuable skill and trading it for the fruit of other people’s skills? Sure, you might not end up in a position to be the most powerful person in government, but you would have an undeniable claim that you benefitted humanity; something that many lawyers and politicians wish they could honestly claim.

I guess when you have a messianic personality, it’s hard to suggest that others *shouldn’t* follow in your footsteps.

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