Monthly Archives: January 2010

Augmentation of Society

I, like many of my classmates, had very mixed feelings about this article.

My first attempt in understanding “Augmenting Human Intellect” was heading toward the conclusion and this sentence really stood out:  “This is an open plea to researchers and to those who ultimately motivate, finance, or direct them, to turn serious attention toward the possibility of evolving a dynamic discipline that can-treat the problem of improving intellectual effectiveness in a total sense.”

An open plea.  Sounds desperate.

After getting a better feel for the article, I was surprisingly intrigued by Engelbart’s proposal.  We all know that computers have quickly become not only a useful tool in research but also a timesaver.  So a program that could essentially solve society’s problems should be of great help to society and the rest of the world, right?  This made me think a little.  Time is of the essence these days; the invention of fast food, cars, computers etc. have all helped us add some time to out busy lives.  With computers essentially ruling out and solving our problems, it really would save us a lot of time.  Also, looking at the characteristics of a computer, just as we have frequent update reminders, a Engelbart’s program would also remain up to date as the times change and new problems arise.

But then I go back to this “open plea” business.

Is it really that much of a burden on our lives that we, the ever-so-flawed human race, have to solve our own problems in a non-programmed way?  While this is a fascinating topic to look into, it makes me think of the movie A.I.  I can’t help but feel that while this idea may lead to quick fixes of problems, it takes away from something that makes the human race so unique from the rest of the world:  emotion.  On top of that, how boring would this world be if every problem was solvable with the click of a mouse?   What would be the point of living and growing?

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A Thought from the "Other Side"

Reading these articles and listening to Gardner Campbell’s talk was definitely a different experiment for me, especially since I am seeing things from the perspective of an English major.  That could be a reason why some of Campbell’s ideas weren’t working for me.

In his article, Campbell talks about students designing their own personal cyberinfrastructures.  Obviously this is important as we are in a modern technology-ruled era, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to let go of the simplicity of the pre-computer age.  I feel a lot of this is because of the many implications that come with depending on technology.  For example, in class on Tuesday, I believe it was  the cPanel that was down.  This completely disrupted the progression of class and we had to try and figure out what was going on.  Things like this happen which why I hesitate in depending too much on my laptop.  During class, my laptop completely shut down for no reason and wouldn’t turn on.  Naturally, I freaked out because of all the information my laptop holds.  Again, I’m depending on a media that can act up on me and essentially screw me over when I need it the most (like homework assignments).  Even amidst a digital age, how can we guarantee the success over something we cannot always control?

Back to the idea of students designing their own personal cyberinfrastructures, I do think this is important.  Is it absolutely necessary?  Not really.  I think this should really be the decision of the student and not a requirement.  Some people (and I know of some) really don’t want to be immersed in this digital age.  While they may be at the short end of the stick with that decision, I think it’s a choice a freshman in college can make.  As someone who studies more about the past than the future, learning about multimodal writing really doesn’t fit in my curriculum.  If that student really isn’t dedicated to learning about this, then why waste anyone’s time?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a full believer in teaching students the importance of understanding what computers can bring to the table, but a part of me still hesitates when we talk about the power of computers when there are many, many bugs that need to be fixed.