Posted On: Tuesday - October 24th 2017 10:23AM MST
In Topics:   Cars  China  Economics  Americans
In this post on human capital / infrastucture in modern-day China vs. America, I wrote poorly of modern day America in this respect. In this short post, I want to add just a little bit of a rebuttal. The gist of it is the shift from mechanical things to electronics.
With modern day autos, whether in China or America, they are not meant really to have much work done easily by the owner. The "shade-tree mechanic" needs a whole bunch of technical knowledge, specialty tools, and electronics that can not be plugged into or lifted by a branch on that old live oak tree. This is just the shift to more economical, but more complicated cars (to the point of absurdity sometimes). It's a boon to the dealers too. I don't think you can fight this one.
However, the kids today do mess with so many pieces of digital electronics. Contrary to my first opinion on this, during early ownership of laptop computers and cell phones, these items can be taken apart and parts swapped, etc. No, it's not the same kind of "working with one's hands" as adjusting the alternator belt tension or balancing a tire, but it's not far off either. There is not that much analog real electrical engineering type knowledge needed, just as a car mechanic in the day didn't have to really understand the power and torque vs. rpm curves either to work on a car. A friend has gotten into to taking apart and repairing laptops part time and enjoys it. There are guys around replacing glass in phones, and there are other parts that can be swapped.
This is a bit different from older "working with your hands" in 3 ways. The first is just that everything is smaller and more delicate. It takes a different kind of finesse and I think a different kind of patience too. For the bolts on an old auto, things had to be jiggled around and it took some muscle and some scraped elbows. However, the parts didn't just snap on you. Now you need more skills with the fingers. The 2nd factor comes in right here. You could just try things and take them back apart without ruining stuff on an old car. For the electonics, well, we've got youtube now. It's a lot better to spend 15 minutes watching some instructional videos (and kudos to the great people that spend the time on that) than snapping plastic parts when you don't know exactly how they are delicately put together. The 3rd difference is the way we get parts. It's all the web now, I suppose, because as that previous post discussed, the infrastructure, the local hardware stores with know-how is mostly gone in America. You need to find it online. It's there, and ebay is the hardware store. It's different, but it's working well for my friend in this business.
Lastly, in reference to the Chinese, I don't think that they will ever get to the place where America used to be, where probably a majority of guys could work with their hands, even if it wasn't their living. In China, 3 factors work against this: Firstly, they probably don't genetically have quite the same aptitude, but that is debatable - hence the comments section here, and I am still leaning toward thinking about real mechanical work, as with cars/vehicles, not with electronics in this thought. Secondly, also with regard to automobiles, here and in China, the car culture will never be as it was in 1950's- 1970's America. In both countries, more people live in cities, hence can't afford and don't need cars so much. Lastly, the Chinese culture DOES NOT RESPECT hand labor. A better way of saying that might be that the Chinese ladies (the hot ones, where it matters) value a money-grubbing social-climbing, I'll-scratch-your-back type man over a simple honest hardworking hands-on guy. Because of that, Chinese men will aspire to be the former over the latter, which is a damn shame.
The gist of it is, the new hands-on guys are the laptop/phone repair guys, and I'm sure other areas of electronics too. Ebay is the new "local hardware store". It kind of sucks that you can't play with the stuff in the store though, and ask a question to a wise old guy there.