Procedural Knowledge Gaps

I am be­gin­ning to sus­pect that it is sur­pris­ingly com­mon for in­tel­li­gent, com­pe­tent adults to some­how make it through the world for a few decades while miss­ing some or­di­nary skill, like mailing a phys­i­cal let­ter, fold­ing a fit­ted sheet, de­posit­ing a check, or read­ing a bus sched­ule. Since these tasks are of­ten pre­sented atom­i­cally—or, worse, em­bed­ded im­plic­itly into other in­struc­tions—and it is of­ten pos­si­ble to get around the need for them, this ig­no­rance is not self-cor­rect­ing. One can Google “how to de­posit a check” and similar phrases, but the sorts of in­struc­tions that crop up are of­ten mis­lead­ing, rely on en­tan­gled and po­ten­tially similarly-defi­cient knowl­edge to be un­der­stand­able, or are not so much in­struc­tions as they are tips and tricks and warn­ings for peo­ple who already know the ba­sic pro­ce­dure. Ask­ing other peo­ple is more effec­tive be­cause they can re­spond to re­quests for clar­ifi­ca­tion (and phys­i­cally point­ing at stuff is use­ful too), but em­bar­rass­ing, since lack­ing these skills as an adult is stig­ma­tized. (They are rarely even con­sid­ered skills by peo­ple who have had them for a while.)

This seems like a bad situ­a­tion. And—if I am cor­rect and gaps like these are com­mon—then it is some­thing of a col­lec­tive ac­tion prob­lem to han­dle gap-filling with­out un­due so­cial drama. Sup­pos­edly, we’re good at col­lec­tive ac­tion prob­lems, us ra­tio­nal­ists, right? So I pro­pose a thread for the pur­pose here, with the stipu­la­tion that all replies to gap an­nounce­ments are to be con­struc­tive at­tempts at con­vey­ing the rele­vant pro­ce­du­ral knowl­edge. No ask­ing “how did you man­age to be X years old with­out know­ing that?”—if the gap-haver wishes to vol­un­teer the in­for­ma­tion, that is fine, but ask­ing is to be con­sid­ered poor form.

(And yes, I have one. It’s this: how in the world do peo­ple go about the sup­pos­edly atomic ac­tion of in­vest­ing in the stock mar­ket? Here I am, sit­ting at my com­puter, and sup­pose I want a share of Ap­ple—there isn’t a but­ton that says “Buy Our Stock” on their web­site. There goes my one idea. Where do I go and what do I do there?)