Is computing mans greatest achievement?

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by KeepYourChinUp, Jul 6, 2014.

  1. KeepYourChinUp

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    Jun 18, 2014
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    I can't help but think that computing is extremely advanced compared to other aspects of human achievement. Consider a computer processor, the intricate motherboard, memory, the hard disk, how electrical signals go from your plug socket into your computer, travel down the correct paths into the cpu are processed, calculated and passed on, through a perfect system until finally the data either performs a task or displays something on your screen.

    Compare this to something else like a train or a plane, a submarine or something else, sure they're great inventions but the complexity and extreme detail that goes into a computer system is just phenomenal.

    I'm actually amazed humans every managed to design such a system in the first place. It's hard to think that humans could design an even more complicated, complex or faster system. I know quantum computing is on the horizon but I'm not sure how promising that looks.

    And the computer is just beginning... consider networking, the internet, servers and the millions of other things that have been made possible by the computer, surely it has to be mans greatest achievement?

    So while computing has became faster and with more uses, it still uses the same core technology. I forgot where I saw it but there was a history graph of the advancement of man in terms of technology, medicine, construction etc and the gradient was relatively subtle until the computer was invented and then the advancement of pretty much everything spiked dramatically. Here is a similar graph but doesn't display before 1900's

    [​IMG]

    Anyway I just felt like I had to talk about this to try and figure out why the computer is unimaginably more complex than anything else we've invented and why we didn't invent it sooner?
     
  2. MaxHeadRoom

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  3. KeepYourChinUp

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  4. nsaspook

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    Yes modern computer are complex but at their hearts they are not complicated devices to use, program and understand. Operations are usually very regular and the basic principles of those operations were known to humans for centuries before we could actually build a practical machine. What's really at the heart of the computer revolution and the advancement of man are the advancements in material science. Our ability to transform matter into completely new forms at the scale of atoms today is IMO a greater achievement than the computers that gives us the tools to understand and control those processes.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  5. KeepYourChinUp

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    Jun 18, 2014
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    But is this possible without computing power? The electron microscope for example is only possible because of computer technology? This is what I find so remarkable is that computing has opened up so many other technologies.
     
  6. wmodavis

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    Oct 23, 2010
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    "I can't help but think that computing is extremely advanced compared to other aspects of human achievement."

    Yes indeed. It has brought peace and happiness to so many.
     
  7. sirch2

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    Think what was done before the computer, chlorination of water, antibiotics and many other drugs, cars, supersonic flight, rockets, audio recording, radio, radar, the theory of relativity, quantum theory. It's almost more amazing that these things were discovered and developed with out modern information technology.
     
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  8. nsaspook

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    Your example is poor, I could build a totally analog electron microscope with photo-film imaging using hand calculations. What's remarkable about the electron microscope is the precision that we use to make the parts (like the field emission electron gun) to resolve matter. Sure the computer can process the images from sensors faster and in a million different ways but the raw data is from a physical process that can be controlled manually with a row of knobs like in the old days before fancy digital controls.

    The next two generations of computers have all ready been designed but we can't build them because the material science just not ready.
    So yes, solid state physics and the machines we can build from that science has been in a symbiotic relationship lately with computers being one of the main drivers but computers are applications of science and what you see today is the result of good engineering of what we can do.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  9. jpanhalt

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    The examples you (i.e., OP) cite may seem like great advances, because we did not have them a relatively few years ago. In reality, they are just steps along the way.

    Or as Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

    Which is the more important invention: man's first foray into abstract thinking and communication or his development of a tool to put a billion transistors on a single silicon chip?

    I would vote for the former.

    John
     
  10. PackratKing

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    I got a suspicion that we may come awfully close, but actual independent AI will never be accomplished.
     
  11. MaxHeadRoom

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    I feel fortunate of having lived through much of the 20th century and seeing the the technical advances that have taken place,
    Having lived close to Bletchley Park, I did not realize at the time that the first computer was built and operated there.
    I was pleased that the graph showed the invention of Collossus.
    And did not discover until much later about the destruction of it after the WWII.
    Not sure why that was done?

    "That was a terrible mistake. I was instructed to destroy all the records, which I did. I took all the drawings and the plans and all the information about Colossus on paper and put it in the boiler fire. And saw it burn."
    Inventor Tommy Flowers.

    But although the technical advances seem to be progressing almost exponentially, as an evolutionist by nature, I wonder how the human race will also deal with tribalism.
    It is estimated that between 20 & 30 Million died during the short 20th century due to this.
    So far the record and the present world do not seem to point in a positive direction. Maybe tribalism is evolutions way of controlling the population?
    It is almost contradictory that we can achieve this much technically, but be mired in our 'primitive' side.
    Max.
     
  12. djsfantasi

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    It's my observation that many early computing advances were done for military/quasi-military purposes. When I was young, I visited a lab in MIT where they had the navigation computer of a military missile, trying to interface to it and convert it for peaceful use. It still looked like a warhead.
     
  13. MaxHeadRoom

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    That is what drove the invention of Collossus.;)
    Max.
     
  14. Wendy

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    Personally I'm a lot more afraid of the Grey Goo Syndrome from nano-tech. Both are fantasy, but both can happen.

    For the non Sci Fi types out there grey goo is a self replicating nano-machine, with no limits. It turns anything it touches into more grey goo.
     
  15. GetDeviceInfo

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    Jun 7, 2009
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    Kind of like the theory put forth from a good buddy that the book of revelation spoke of false prophecy, manifesting itself today in what we generally term as the 'internet'. If there are galaxies, millions of years in the future, why haven't those inhabitants made themselves known. Is technology distancing us from who we really are? Does computing even matter.

    Not to be a pessimist, but I think man is short on the accomplishment list.
     
  16. JoeJester

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    The problem with identifying man's greatest achievement is that it hasn't happened yet.

    We can identify them by the decade, the century, or some other finite time scale, but not the truly greatest achievement. That will be left to the intelligent being that find the ruins of human society.

    We can have lot's of qualifiers in the period of time agreed upon and may even come up with the one item that is the greatest achievement, but it is relegated to "of the year", "of the decade", "of the century."
     
  17. sirch2

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    Surely there is no "single" greatest achievement, or if there is it was well in the past, e.g. tool use or farming or commerce. Without farming everyone had to spend all their time getting food but farming allowed some people to devote time to thinking and learning and creating. But would we have farming without tool use?
     
  18. THE_RB

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    As far as tools go computing allows man to know things, and achieve things, far greater than any other man made tool has done.

    It will also allow us to modify ourselves to an incredible level of ability, with implants etc.

    Imagine a "google implant" in your head that allows instant googling of anything known to mankind, in a fraction of a second...

    I see the big threat not being that computers will rise to overthrow the humans, but that humans will not want to be human anymore... As more and more implants offer greater and greater abilities (and career opportunities) to the individual, only the loser luddites will want to remain 100% organic, and will become a subservient lower class, if they continue at all.

    And so I guess the OP is right? Computing is mans greatest achievement, or at least the single achievement that will have the greatest impact on man's future...
     
  19. sirch2

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    A google implant would just be there to put adverts directly into your brain. Remember we are Google's product that they sell, not their customers.

    I still say you could not have had any of that without the things that went before, farming, tools and medical advances.
     
  20. JoeJester

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    I don't recall if Aristotle was a farmer.
    I don't recall if Hero was a farmer.

    Fire seems like a great achievement. We would still be eating berries and grains without fire.

    Greatest achievement needs qualification.

    The computer is a tool. Having advanced tools does not translate to smarter people. Information overload can be detrimental.

    Everyone who writes on those political forums has a computer, yet, some clearly aren't thinking.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2014
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