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It might be difficult for some people to ask the enormous question, what are we getting into and where are we going with all this high technology? It is indeed a difficult question considering the wonderful things we can now do and the speed at which advancements continue to come to use daily. One might say it is mesmerizing. As it would be impossible to discuss even a half of the issues, let me look at a few that come to mind.
I have been using Apple Macintosh computers for well nearly 25 years. I have always liked the ease at which they can be used. It is, of course, the ‘user experience’ that has always been at the heart of everything Apple has undertaken. I must admit, however, that only recently have I begun to slightly question Apple. As with many other people, I admit to having a love hate relationship with most,if not all, technology.
When I look around, I see the good and the bad of technology and I don’t mean just the obvious spread of good and evil information. I have heard many people over the years state that technology, like everything man makes, can be used for good or evil. This would apply to computers and what is often called high technology.
It is easy to to be caught up in all the interesting things technology can do. We are told that our lives are so much better off due to technology. Let’s face it, technology is fun and it sure looks like our lives are getting better, however, as I have written before, it seems to me that we have crossed over to a new paradigm when we adopted digital technology. Something is truly and fundamentally different.
In the span of human history, computers have only been part of our lives for a very short time—sort of a blink of the eye of history. At first, they were hailed as wonderful number crunchers, however, a computer with only a fraction of the capabilities of even a small computer of today, took up more than one room and required several people to operate it. Here is an interesting aspect of computer technology. It grows in power and shrinks in size at a rate nobody could ever have imagined. Along the way, it captivates us with the wonderful things it does for us.
Perhaps our lives would be quite different if computers had remained in the hands of corporations that had the space and finances to obtain and operate a computer. But something happened in a garage during the 1970s. The personal computer was born. In a matter of a few years everyone could have a powerful computer. This was a fundamental change to mankind and it was ushered in by a company called Apple.
I want to take a moment to have a look at a few interesting aspects of Apple Computers and the personal computing industry. First, what is a byte? In simple terms, it is a collection of eight bits of data that makes it possible for a computer to know and render a single character, such as a letter of the alphabet or a single digit number. A bit is the smallest unit of digital binary data, a 0 or a 1. I guess, for some people, it represents knowledge. I’ll stick with information, as I believe knowledge is information that has, not only become part of our memory, it is information that we are able to use and apply in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, many people consider information as knowledge.
Humans are transformed when personal computers enter their lives. It is not just a device, it is a foreign world that I would state, is incompatible with the physical nature of a human being. I am talking about digital information. One could say it exists, but it does not exist. One can have information at their fingertips, but not have it physically in their hands, you have a file that does not actually exist in a physical form or space. One can go to a web page without going anywhere. One can communicate with another person without ever meeting them, or be their friend without knowing them.
Is all this real? Does it make us more or less human?
Much of the bulk of a computer is in the machinery required to allow a human to interface and interact with it and the information available. A keyboard and a screen are examples. Not only is this bulky, it slows the interaction down. Computers work in milliseconds, however, the operation of a keyboard takes, well, much much longer. Have you ever wondered why we have buttons and other graphics to make the digital world look like our physical world? All this contributes to a clumsy, awkward exchange between humans and computers, one that, if computers get smart enough, will frustrate the computer into perhaps bypassing the human. Might the computer decide to control the human? Could this already be happening in some way?
Have you heard the statement that technology is neither good nor bad, it is just how you use it? What do you think? Have you ever wondered where technology is taking us or are you simply infatuated with technology today and what you can do with it?
I find myself regularly taking a step, or more, back to attempt to observe where we are going. Perhaps this is one capability that the late Steve Jobs of Apple had. He is now considered a genius and visionary. As the story goes, Jobs chose the name Apple so that the company name would come before Amiga and Atari, companies who might compete with his company. It is a rags to riches story with plenty of ups and downs. Beginning in a garage, Apple is now the largest publicly traded company in the world.
In the book of Genesis in the Bible, we find the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden facing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was it not a bite, or byte taken of the apple. Take another look at the Apple logo. Curious, isn’t it?