Sunday, April 13, 2014

From Computers to Humans: Can the Creators Learn From Their Creations?

Computers are some of the most fascinating and epoch making creations of the mankind. Computers have enabled human beings undertake activities that were previously beyond human imagination. From robotic controls to satellite navigation, computers enable the previously unthinkable to be routinely practical. The computer, in its configuration, though has not changed much in concept; an input system, an output system, an operating system, a Random Access Memory (RAM), and a hard disc memory continue to be the core of a typical computer, be it the mainframe, desktop, laptop, notebook, netbook, ultrabook,  tablet, phablet,  smart phone, smart watch or smart glass. External memory and a few other accessories have enhanced what the computer can do. The developments of the last few years, however, have been pushing computer more as a social device rather than a computing device. A question, therefore, is whether the mankind is sub-optimizing the power of its own creation.

A few pointers in development of the computers and the extended devices listed above reinforce the concern. There is more emphasis on miniaturization of the form factor with empowerment of the hardware, say from a computer to a tablet, than on maximization of the processing power, per se. There is more emphasis on display quality than on processing capability. There is more emphasis on connectivity than on computing. There is more emphasis on photography than on archiving. There is more dependence on distant Cloud than the intrinsic device. These trends, by no means, are negative; they are certainly positive and represent a powerful way of making computers an integral part of everyday life. The concern arises not from these pointers per se but with what they represent collectively. Millions of technology resources and billions of dollars are focused on miniaturizing what is available on large scale than on boosting the power of the large scale further.
Rebooting the design
The computer designs need to be up-scaled to newer horizons as the world looks at greater networking, shared processing and infinite storing. The need for new mainframe technologies cannot be limited to certain specialized areas. The futurism of global networking and cloud computing requires that mainframe computers are brought back into the mainstream of global electronics development. Along with that, newer input technologies need to be developed; for example, intelligent tabletops serving as input slates, processors and display screens. The conventional office desk should be replaced by a smart table top which enables communication, computing, conferencing and a host of other professional services. The same concept would extend to personal tabletops serving as the total computer solution to the home needs. The smart phone or tablet would then be a dovetailed extension of the tabletop. When this tabletop technology becomes universal, no one would ever need to carry a laptop or tablet. One would simply enter any other office and work from either conference room or guest room table tops.
Extending the logic further, walls can be made into display and input walls, especially in conference rooms. While real time, realistic video conferencing is already in vogue, computer walls can transport individuals across geographies.  People can deliver talks to large groups and groups can animatedly converse with each other; the key, of course, would be a step-jump in communication technologies. Devices should have the ability to simultaneously transmit and receive across a wide range of communication devices, from fiber optic to satellite networks. Finger scanning and visual biometric technologies would be an integral part of the new rebooted designs. Similar concepts can be extended to shop floor machines with walls and machine displays serving as real time communication, collaboration and monitoring devices. In a nutshell, the question is whether the flow of technology should be only to bring the power of a desktop into a small smart device for an individual or to simultaneously make the desktops exponentially powerful and interactive for teams and groups collectively.    
Relearning the basics

Computers have certain basic characteristics of operation that enable them accept, process, store, retrieve and transmit huge amounts of data and information; all of this has been a result of painstaking development of several brilliant scientists, engineers and technicians. It is believed that a human being is, likewise, blessed with a capability to process trillions of data. Yet, it appears that a typical human being is fast losing the capability to utilize his or her own inherent, intrinsic natural powers. The solution could be in terms of learning a few basics from the way a computer operates.

The first relates to the discipline of memory. A computer can operate only within its memory limits; so can the human being. The only difference is that the computer’s design limits are known while the individual’s are unknown. The whole purpose of education is to let the individual understand his or her own memory capabilities. Many times, the human being fails to understand or utilize his own brain power, and feels that new knowledge has to overwrite the old knowledge. Partitioning of human memory helps an individual cope with data deluge just as partitioning of disc memory helps a computer store and process data efficiently. It is important that an individual practices in his own natural way of partitioning his memory into multiple storage areas. Equally important is the need to develop one’s own equivalent of RAM, that part of the memory bank with which his programs can communicate instantly. The individual must also make his brain more efficient by utilizing the intrinsic memory rather than relying on external props.
The second relates to the discipline of input. A computer can accept each and every input as long as it is provided by designed input mechanisms; it cannot differentiate data in terms of logic or correctness, and will process all data that is provided. As a result, the GIGO (garbage in-garbage out) phrase which came into parlance in the 1960s continues to be in vogue. That said, the computer can differentiate data and information based on pre-set rules. The human being likewise has both natural and acquired abilities to differentiate and discriminate between data based on education and experience gained over time. It behoves the individual to develop rules based on such lifelong education and experience, and apply them whenever he is faced with huge amount of data. A great case in point is an individual’s ability to process the huge amount of campaign data and information hurled at him from multiple sources during the election time, and take a rule based voting decision.
The third relates to the discipline of operating system.  The operating system is the core of the computer. It has all the programs built into it. The computer operates as per the operating system, no more and no less. Does the human being have an operating system, or the core programming that is standardized? The challenge and the opportunity is that each individual has his or her own unique operating system, based on multiple factors of genetics, family, education, experience, and intuition. Unlike the computer operating system, the human operating system is prone to creativity as well as rigidity at two extremes. The key for each individual’s superior performance lies in self-awareness that he or she operates as per an individualized operating system, and it lies entirely within him or her as to how he or she can reinforce and sharpen it.
The fourth relates to the discipline against malware. The greatest threat to orderly, safe and efficient operation of a computer is the malware. The major operating systems provide for security certification and inbuilt filters against malware. In addition, anti-virus providers provide anti-virus programs. The human mind is similarly susceptible to social and other malware. It is important that individuals recognize the need to develop core professional and personal principles to protect the human mind against the malware of irrational or non-integral behavior patterns that impinge on one every day. The sayings of philosophers, seers and spiritual gurus and the embedded knowledge of religious works provide strong filters against the invasions of malware on human mind.
The fifth relates to the benefit of applications. The phenomenon of applications getting developed for various devices reflects the need to customize the power of a computer to individual needs, making both access and analysis of information simple and effective. Likewise, every individual has the benefit of the knowledge and experience of his friends, peers and associates to provide additional pre-experiences and guidance to individuals’ own capabilities. The ability to leverage the stakeholders enables every individual to optimize his experience on one hand, and avoid the pitfalls of others on the other; at the minimum it avoids the time and cost of rediscovering what is already known to others. Applying others’ knowledge, experience and insights to one’s own approach enhances performance while making it error-proof.


The sixth, possibly the most important, is the power of the processor. The processor speed is the most important determinant of a computer’s overall performance. The ability and speed of the human brain to process information is similarly an important determinant of how one performs in the competitive world. Unfortunately, unlike the computer chip, the human cell deteriorates after a certain age. Medical research teaches that it pays for one to keep the body and mind fit, sharp and agile through a variety of exercises for the body and the mind. While a computer becomes obsolete with new technologies, the human mind has the ability to compensate any loss of performance that happens with age with gain of wisdom. As one ages, one can mellow with more grace and wisdom. Unlike a computer, a human being can be regenerative, and value-accretive with age.
The seventh is the power of the output. The result of the efficiency of a computer is seen in the output. So much emphasis is placed on display of output to assure customization and elegance. The human communication, especially the response and feedback mechanisms determine the effectiveness of the human personality as an individual and as a leader. Output efficacy varies widely with circumstances. It can be succinct or elaborate; at times a harangue is required while at other times silence is golden. Just as a computer’s display is enhanced by the right choice of fonts, pixels, screen and background, a person’s processed communication output is embellished by a person’s right choice of thoughts, words, format and backdrop. 

The eighth is the significance of modularity. The computer is a core device. Its core power can be extended by a variety of read/write devices, flash and external memories and other devices including smart devices. Each helps add capacity, enhance portability and provide flexibility. Some of these help remove the clutter in the computer. Likewise, the human being is the centre and core of everything. To let one’s life get governed by the plethora devices is somewhat like missing the woods for the trees. The devices, including the computer, must be used to enhance and improve one’s life than allow it to be tied in eternal knots and tangles.     

Human technology

Technology helps better human development. Computer is one of the most brilliant and ubiquitous products of human technology. Its power and applicability is so vast that it also makes the human mind to lose its independence and self-reliance. Yet, the way a computer’s power is organized and managed with design, the computer’s creators, the human beings, can take a lesson or two from the computer for designing themselves better to live more effectively.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on April 13, 2014  



Anonymous said...

A very nice comparison between the computer and the human being

Unknown said...

Well I truly enjoyed reading it, you provide interesting info in your post. Thanks for sharing. .
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