In my last post I harangued about the computerization of automobiles which has transformed cars from icons to mere modes of transportation.
Back in the 1960’s Alvin Toffler wrote the book Future Shock which premised that society would be unable to adjust to rapid change: this, of course has been disproved by the advent of computers.
In 1983 I was introduced to basic computing while attending college. Since that time computers have brought about unbelievable change in only thirty years. It is as though we stepped out of the mechanical dark ages into a time of unlimited technology.
To understand the quantum advancements in computers you must understand the basic unite of byte.
Basically one byte is eight binary digits which compose one character or one letter.
· 1 Kilobyte = 1,000 Bytes
· 1 Megabyte = 1,000 Kilobytes or 1,000,000 (one million) Bytes
· 1 Gigabytes = 1,000 Megabytes or 1,000,000000 (one million) Kilobytes or 1,000,000,000,000, (one billion) Bytes.
The standard for computers in schools in 1985 when I began teaching was the Apple II with 48 kilobytes of memory. In 1990 I bought an Apple II-C+ with 500 Kilobytes of memory, and about that time Apple came out with the Macintosh with 1 Megabyte of memory.
Today inexpensive desktop computers handle Gigabytes and more expensive units – Terabytes (trillions of bytes.)
At this point it seems that the only limit to computer expansion is money for research and development. Computer scientists are already working on computers that can learn, program and troubleshoot themselves (it seems science fiction writers are always the catalyst for science.)
Orwell’s 1984 gave us a picture of a world run by Big Brother: society totally manipulated by a ruling class. But, 1984 was before the advent of computers.
The next logical jump is a society completely run by computers – or a God Computer: a self-learning computer that has downloaded all the computer data in the world and manipulated and finally stored all relevant data for immediate access; and with the ability for logical decision making.
This would not necessarily be a bad thing. It would means that we would have to turn over authority from elected men of various and dubious intelligence to a logical intellect with unlimited intelligence and amassed knowledge.
Take medicine: If all the medical information in the world was stored for immediate access then doctors would only need to input a patients symptoms and the computer would diagnose and prescribe the proper treatment.
Look at our judicial system. I have served on jury duty and it is a circus. You have twelve individuals of questionable intelligence deciding the merits of a case, and a judge with religious, personal, racial and social biases passing sentence. I had much rather have a judicial computer containing all US and State laws and regulations, with the ability to think and reason based on said laws, make a logical and impartial judgment on a case involving me.
Of course there would be technical, cultural, social and psychological hurtles to overcome. But the end results would be that instead of our lives being controlled and manipulated in the chaotic fashion of 1984 we would all be tied into a logical and impartial mainframe possessing all knowledge.
Perhaps I have over thought this…
What could possibly go wrong?