Friday, September 17, 2010

It's not one way or another

The dystopian vision of computers expressed by the twilight zone episode in my opinion is purely clannish and irrational. The whole episode was basically concentrating on how this new machine destroyed people’s life and sending out the information indicating the “cold blood” of computer. This kind of thoughts of producers and writers can be attributed to human being’s irrational fear of esoteric things. Just like in ancient China people were even afraid of the eclipse of moon; they attributed this effect to this ridiculous lie that it was the flying dog monster that ate the moon. So we can get that people tend to relate what they are afraid of to monsters. That’s why “the machine” was portrayed as being a monster with an evil essence in that episode. The producers of twilight zone never thought about to create a harmonious relation between human being and computers. Computers were created by human, thus they needed to be operated by human. In that episode of twilight zone they should have arranged that instead of firing all those workers, the appearance of the machine helped workers to work faster and more effectively after the workers learnt to operate the machine.

Douglas Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect gives us a clear picture of how computers can enhance productivity and efficiency of solving problems. As the article stated, the computer helps us to solve problems in a way of merging different perspectives and field of subjects thus to reach human intellectual effectiveness. So it’s us that gather what we know into computer and develop the framework to let computer work for us. Although computers can accurately solve us problem, they lack the basic ability to adapt into random situations in reality. In the article, Engelbart used the example of architect designing building with computer. The computer showed and simulated everything in front of his eyes including predicting the angle of the sunshine in the certain time of the day, but what if some construction worker made a mistaking of using wrong material or misplacing tubes inside the structure? This is when we have to manually fix the problem because the computer couldn’t foresee the chaotic system of reality, however we can.

So people need to have computers to work more effectively, also computers need to be operated by people and maintained by people. It’s not a one way or another problem like computers and human beings don’t get along, instead they need to work together. Neither the dystopian vision of computer in the twilight zone nor the utopian vision of computers reading full human intelligence in Douglas Engelbart’s article is going to happen. In fact, there should be a harmonious relationship between computers and us.


  1. I think that this is a very rational assessment of what the human relationship with computers and technology should be. We are not controlled by these devices, which have no mind or will of their own. Computers and other similar technologies were created to make our lives easier, and we should not have to feel threatened by them. The view expressed in the "Twilight Zone" episode that we saw reflects fear - something Engelbart did not intend us to feel at the introduction of computers. I agree, we should work with this technology, knowing that it can only help us in the end if it is put to good use.

  2. It's easier to over simplify and be paranoid than understand the subtle, complex issues at play as digital tools came into mainstream use. It took a long long time for somebody to think up something like Facebook!