2004-09-13 09:34 - Tech
I read an article this morning at breakfast about how people rely on computers to perform their tasks for them. The article's author was trying to claim that computers cannot do your work for you, because they are stupid. On the basest level, this is true. What he failed to realize is that, in fact, computers can do your work for you. A bit.
In truth, computers are tools, like any other. A carpenter uses a hammer, an architect uses a t-square, an office rat uses a computer. In each case, the tool is "doing the work" for the person. A carpenter could get by without a hammer, but it would be tough. An architect could use some geometry tricks to draw lines at the right angles, but the t-square sure makes it a lot easier. Computers are the same, only different. Computers are "ability batteries" which a skilled individual can fill up with ability, and almost anyone can drain the ability out and take advantage of it.
Just like the AA cell batteries you are so familiar with, the "ability battery" has limited capacity. You can only get so much out of it, and then the charge is used up. If I am writing a paper, I can do it with paper and pencil. I can use a typewriter to help if my handwriting isn't good, but I might have to start a page over if I make a mistake. I can use a computer as an ability battery, and let a word proccessing application do most all of the layout and typesetting work, and in the end come out with something that looks professionally typeset. The ability battery is getting bigger and stronger every day. Now, you can even let the ability battery handle your spelling, and sometimes your grammar. There's a hefty charge of english language ability in there along with the professional typesetter.
But, and this is the big point, the ability battery is no substitute for a human mind. Although like the carpenter could technically get by without his hammer, the hammer couldn't build a house without the carpenter. For a computer to produce something valuable, there needs to be something intelligent at the keyboard. Computers are a tool, not a miracle.