Category Archives: Computers
Forgetting How to Use a Book
A very interesting post from journalist David Bauer. He has been reading books all his life, but after only two years of reading on an ipad, he is no longer comfortable reading a book the old-fashioned way.
I find it increasingly uncomfortable to move my eyes from the top of a page to the bottom as I read along. I prefer to keep my focus at roughly the same spot and to move the text rather my eyes.
Read his entire blog here: The Day I Forgot How to Use a Book
The Paradox of Time-Saving Devices
Cell phones. Tablets. Laptops. The list is ever-growing and ever-changing. All these devices are designed to makes our lives easier. To streamline our work. To give us more time. The trouble is they don’t.
Remember the books and articles that predicted computers that would be so efficient, they would liberate us from the shackles of an eight-hour work day? Give us a completely paperless society? They would enable us to accomplish more in less time, leaving us free to pursue leisure activities like never before. Computers were going to set us free.
So what happened? The computers materialized as predicted. They enabled us to accomplish our tasks faster. They streamlined our work. So where is the abundant free time?
- Instead of using our “extra’ time to pursue enjoyable activities and hobbies, we use it to get even more work done. The theory is if we can do a job in half the time, then we can accomplish twice as much as before.
- Doing our work more efficiently means, to most corporations, that fewer employees are required to do the same amount of work. So we all now do our own jobs and the jobs of the employees who have been downsized/rightsized/out-the-door-sized.
- The devices themselves are an insidious time drain, alluring in their designs, attractive in their promises of time-saving and entertainment. We are enchanted and then mesmerized. They hold a thrall over us that we cannot break. We compulsively check them. We pour more information into them. We get caught up in the web (slight pun intended) of communication and information. We don’t own them. They own us.
- The upkeep and maintenance of the devices is no small chore, either. Add it to the list of another damn thing to do.
The plus side is that we do communicate like never before. News spreads quickly. Response time is lightning fast. Organization and mobilization can happen like never before. (Remember SOPA?)
Unfortunately, we have to communicate quickly. No more complete sentences. No more fully spelled words. Who has the time to either write them or read them?
The Lost Art of Thinking
We’ve been noticing a scary trend in the world. Our devices – phones, tablets, ereaders, computers – are trying to do all our thinking for us.
They remember phone numbers, names, addresses. They guide us through our travels, telling us when to turn and the most direct route to take. They decide what words we are trying to type and helpfully (and sometimes humorously) insert them into our texts.
Did you ever try to format a novel? The word processing program makes all sorts of assumptions about what you are trying to do. It adds blank pages where you do not want them. It tries to indent lines. It adds bullets where none are desired. It does all this because it has been programmed to make assumptions about what you are trying to do and then rush in oh-so-helpfully to make your life easier.
The trouble is computers are not good at thinking. They are not capable of nuance, they don’t understand exceptions. They are rigid, by-the-book, follow-the-rules kind of thinkers. And yet with every new device, every updated program, we are allowing them to do more and more of our thinking for us.
Why? It saves times. It’s convenient. It’s just so damn easy.
No one remembers phone numbers anymore. No one needs to learn or even remember how to get to a new location. We don’t have to memorize addresses. We don’t even have to remember what books we have read. Somewhere, in the gigantic world we call the Internet, a database exists that tracks every book purchase and every other purchase for that matter. Our computers remember our logins and passwords so that we don’t have to. They remind us of birthdays. They make recommendations on everything from what we should read next to whom our perfect lover might be.
Don’t believe computers are thinking for you? Take this simple test. Can you dial the phone numbers of your family and closest friends without looking the numbers up? Can you drive to a place you have never been before without a GPS? Do you remember all your logins and passwords? Can you recall birthdays in a timely-enough fashion to send a card?
Many folks will claim life is so hectic, so stressful, so gosh-darned busy, that having computers remember things for us is a wonderful idea. And, yes, as tools go, computers are pretty amazing, and they make life easier in many ways. However, our brains, like our bodies, become out-of-shape from lack of use. Computers take from us a vital function. They are directing our decisions. They are becoming our memories.