Computers Are Limiting Our World

Everyone agrees that computers highlight the achievements of 20th-century science and technology. With so much obvious success it is very easy to forget the limitations. Are we making serious mistakes because science is leading us in the wrong direction? I believe that we are. Because computers are designed by scientists, they reflect the scientific ethos. A “good” scientist observes a narrowly defined phenomenon and explains its behavior with simple generalizations. A “fam

Chris Reynolds
May 14, 1989

Everyone agrees that computers highlight the achievements of 20th-century science and technology. With so much obvious success it is very easy to forget the limitations. Are we making serious mistakes because science is leading us in the wrong direction? I believe that we are.

Because computers are designed by scientists, they reflect the scientific ethos. A “good” scientist observes a narrowly defined phenomenon and explains its behavior with simple generalizations. A “famous”scientist finds particularly elegant laws. It is therefore not surprising that computers are designed to work at their best when processing a set of precise rules (laws), using well-ordered data (observations).

So what are computers bad at? Handling poorly structured and open-ended tasks with no clear general rules. I wonder why? How many famous scientists can you name who became famous for unsuccessfully trying to solve such a problem? Computers are bad at doing the very things that the...

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