Friday, June 13, 2008

Machines as Aggregates

After listening to IT Conversations with David Mindell of MIT, I am struck by the metaphor of machine as aggregate. If any machine is an aggregate of the human knowledge that created it, and technology is constantly improving, then human knowledge is constantly improving too. I don't know that improving is really the word at which I am grasping here. I know since I was a young girl that machines have become more ubiquitous, smaller, faster, and more accurate.

Is there a ceiling to this improving knowledge? As Truman in The Truman Show did, will humans run up against a wall above which we cannot advance? How far will we be able to advance before hitting the ceiling? With global warming, the nuclear arms race, and other global disasters, both potential or ongoing, we may not have the opportunity to build our tower that high.

From Mindell's comparison of rockets hitting London during WWII to 9/11 in NYC, it is apparent that history, despite technological advance, repeats itself. Mindell calls Pinchot's description as prescient of 9/11, but this is not so. Mindell's comparison involves hindsight, not the foresight of Pinchot.

I welcome contributions to this conversation.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia available at

1 comment:

Louise Maine said...

I am hoping that my comment is on the right track. I believe that we won't have a chance to hit the ceiling as we still have not learned what to actually do with information. There are many great people with great ideas to change the world, but until we can put what is right and true first, it does not seem to matter. Very few are brave enough to do what needs to be done. Of course, in computer systems, computer analysis generally sides with what is logical.