Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hey everybody,

I'm supposed to lead discussion tomorrow, so I hope my questions are at least mildly interesting for everyone:

(1) From what I understand, ARPANET was created so universities could share data with one another. Then came the "ARPA Internet Project," which fused ARPANET with 2 other networks, and its primary function was to connect people together via email. Then came the Internet, which was initially used by large institutions and the government, until everyone else got their hands on it. In the next "stage" of the internet, what do you think the primary function will be? Possibly secure e-commerce?

(2) Given the discussion of the "Boundary Workers" in the Downey reading, both at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, have we underestimated just how irreplaceable people have been in the development of our advanced networks? After all, people who are hired to be mere "service workers," such as tech support people, have to think not only practically but theoretically, respond to thousands of slight changes when technology is updated and/or combined (on the fly), all while serving as the only human connection between some disgrunted software user and the giant technology firm that frankly doesn't give a damn about him/her. Oh, and they have to be polite, too. What is more irreplaceable than a competent human being?

(3) This question merely expands upon one we talked about in class, but I want to give it another whirl tomorrow: Do we give our current technology too much credit in our advancement as a society, and furthermore, do we expect far too much out of our future technologies? I ask because in "Telecommunications in the City," a futurist named Toth said in 1990 that "the new American social order will consist of 2 billion SMI Units working, doing busines, and generating taxes; 5 million people paid as government workers; and the rest of the population getting a salary to enjoy life." Isn't this a tad optimistic? I mean, come on, this is way beyond even "The Jetsons."

I came across an article by Arthur Clarke (the guy who wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey) in a class I had last semester, and he basically said the same thing. Referring to another author, he argued that once humans create the first intelligent computer, we will never have to work again, because we will use this intelligent computer to create an ultra-intelligent computer, which in turn will create an ultra-ultra-intelligent computer, and so on. I guess I have a subquestion then: What does it mean for something to be intelligent? Was that knowledge navigator butler intelligent? And if not, was 'Hal' in 2001: A Space Odyssey Intelligent? Can anything but a human be intelligent, in the sense that we will need it to be if we are to be relaxing on the beach while it runs the world for us?

---Hope they weren't too boring, and I also hope we can talk about them tomorrow in class a bit--



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