Literacy = Social Usability

Many people may think that literacy is an issue of yesteryear… — No! It is one of the greatest challenges many industrial societies face.

Consider, for example, the situation of traumatized refugees. They have fled war-torn countries only to arrive in a land where everything is foreign.

Consider, for example, the teenager who commits suicide after being “bullied” to death.

Consider, for example, the naive (but illiterate) user who enters their banking account information on some hacker’s website.

Consider, for example, the person who uses sites like google.com and/or facebook.com without realizing that when they visit these sites (and also sites they might feel are “secured” — such as amazon.com) their interests, their location, their list of “friends”, the “apps” they use, and much much more are being shared widely across the internet.

Many people might be surprised if they realized that as soon as they walk through the door, dozens of businesses already have well-developed plans about what they are supposed to do next.

Many people can’t spell. Do you mean you didn’t know that already?

Many people talk a wide array of dialects, jargons, or specialized languages.

Many click “Like”, “Retweet”, “Share” and similar buttons they see online.

Few people realize that if someone wants to search for something, then they have to know how to spell, they have to know how to input text, they have to know that the “best mortgage” is in the eye of the beholder, they have to know what a guarantee is, what “health insurance” means, they need to be able to read the fine print, ….

When was the last time you read the fine print? Do you think someone who is functionally illiterate should be expected to read the fine print? They might understand “please”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome”, 🙂 … — and then you expect them to read the fine print?

Fine print will never be a good measure of a technologically advanced society.

Technology needs to remove the fine print. A society in which individuals with a high-school education cannot function well is misguided, not advanced.

If the technology you build requires more education than that, then you are part of the problem a technologically advanced society needs to solve.

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