The Human Computer

Computer scientists have a lot to learn and realize.

For one thing, computers aren’t the center of the universe. What may be an ideal for computer scientists may not be an ideal for normal people. And very often, computer scientists affect normal people because everyone uses computers (or at least, everyone will).

All these computers sit around on our desks, we only use a fraction of their power at any time. Right now, I am typing this blog entry, using less than 1% of my CPU’s power. Theoretically, it could be doing things–helpful things, things that will make my life easier. It could be doing smart analyses of what I’m writing and try to predict what I’m going to do next. It could be some sort of extension of my mind, helping me produce better work. Instead, it sits there idle, useless. Glorified typewriter.

There have been many innovations, but the “humanity” of computers has been lost. We shouldn’t be designing our lives around them… they should be designed around US. The way the human mind works needs to be complimented. I should not change my ways for the computer, except if in changing them it makes my life easier, less complicated, and makes me more powerful as a human being.

These should be enabling devices. They surely have the potential to be enabling devices. But right now, in many ways, they disable us. We are restricted by the rules programmers place on us. We live under a sort of “law of code” which Lawrence Lessig describes in his books. In addition, the gov’t and other groups seek ways to use computers to control people.

Computers need to become more like us, so that they can seem familiar, useful, but at the same time, a whole lot more powerful. What computers have that we don’t have is speed, time (CPU time), and infinite storage. What we have that computers don’t have is the ability to reason about our experiences in very flexible ways. Wrapping a computer’s speed and storage capabilities around our own flexible abilities as conscious beings would mean a very powerful harmony.

Why are we still talking about how to isolate faults, or make device driver subsystems better, when this human element is so sorely needed, and would be so well appreciated?