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Archive for July, 2011

Albert Einstein wrote: “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Human beings are incredibly slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. Together they are powerful beyond imagination.”

The partnership between human beings and computers is long and enduring and there are so many examples of just how powerful the influence of computers really is. This was especially true after the debut of the personal computer, and again after the debut of the Internet that gets us connected today.

When spreadsheets came out we became better tabulators. When word-processing and spell-checkers arrived we became better writers. The widespread use of relational databases made it easier to collect, store and manage information making us more intelligent about larger collections of data.

Over the decades of computing the costs of storing data have dropped to nearly nothing.  In many cases storing data on the Internet is free.  The costs of collecting data has dropped significantly.  There was a time, not so long ago, that the 300 baud modem was the most common way to connect or be “on-line” with another computer.  The costs to download 10 megabytes over long distance telephone lines was not inexpensive.  Now people connect to the Internet over public wireless networks in most cities. It is offered free by many business establishments. People now download a thousand times the amount of data moved in 1985.

But something went wrong. The five basic means and capabilities needed for intelligence are collection, storage, retrieval, analysis and dissemination. We have systems of collection, storage, retrieval and dissemination but the systems we do have for analysis are not generally something anyone can run on their personal computer.  Even if we can run them on a desktop pc, they are complex systems that require significant expertise to make them work well in limited areas of specialization.

Analyzing the patterns and ordering the data helps us learn about the world and obtain to better and more complete theories.  Albert Einstien wrote:  “Concepts that have proven useful in ordering things easily achieve authority over us that we forget their earthy origins and accept them as unalterable givens.  Thus they might come to be stamped as “necessities of thought,” “a priori givens,” etc.  The path of scientific progress is often made impassable for a long time by such errors.  Therefore it is by no means an idle game if we become practiced in analyzing long-held  commonplace concepts and showing the circumstances on which their justification and usefulness depend, and how they have grown up,  individually, out of the givens of experience.  Thus, their excessive authority will be broken.  They will be removed if they cannot be properly legitimated, corrected if their correlation with  given things be far too superfluous, or replaced if a new system can be established that we prefer for any reason.”

Yet, still, here and now as we are in the twenty-first century we are lacking knowledge of those things that are given in our individual, private, and our public, social experience.  There is no model, no theory by which we can know, count and measure the givens of experience.  Einstein also wrote that: “It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.”

So, it is a fair question to ask after the adequate representation to the givens of experience.  It is reported that in a letter to his son, Einstein wrote that: “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

Isn’t it time to move on to a new way of thinking about intelligence and our means and capability to alter the structure and order of our independent, yet collective reality?  This video below defines simple basic and abstract elements of thinking that could make it possible for computers to do more intelligent analysis in much simpler ways, and to help us become better thinkers in the process.

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