Re: [unrev-II] Mental Arthmetic, Calculators, and Armageddon

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Tue Feb 15 2000 - 16:10:51 PST

From: Henry van Eyken <>

All very valid concerns, Eric. It seems to me that right now we have
technology coming out of our ears, but we don't use what is between those
ears what we want it to do. I already mentioned a case where
comerce-cum-technology is moving so fast that we haven't even had the time
to figure out how to enjoy things that are already off the market!

Maybe we should have a big conference, not of world and business leaders,
but of leaders in the humanities and science fields to discuss: What is it


P.S. I would prefer, though, to change the name of the thread to "Mental
arithmetic, calculators, and the potential for superior judgment." H.

Eric Armstrong wrote:

> But I can't help but wonder where we wind up in the future.
> We have a trade off between efficiency and understanding....Where will be
> a hundred or two hundred years in the future,though? By then, the
> algorithms will be stored in an
> electronic knowledge repository. As newer, better, smaller, faster designs
> are created the algorithms will be automatically replicated in the new
> devices, along with other algorithms
> and information.

Like at the supermarket check-out counter ...

> ... By now, all of the world's knowledge is stored in electronic form.
> Access mechanisms are so good that books haven't been needed for a century
> and a half. It's an all-electronic world that we interact with naturally,
> effortlessly...
> Then the lights go out. A comet hits, or massive volcanic eruptions take
> place. A major drought occurs, or some other world-upsetting event takes
> place. The power we need to
> drive those systems goes away. Our backup strategies were good for 10
> years. But how do we deal with a 20-year or a 50-year power outage -- how
> do we access the information
> we need to rebuild?
> The tradeoff, in my mind, is between efficiency and safety. What baseline
> of information do we need to preserve in order to rebuild quickly, how do
> we store it, and how do we preserve the understanding of how to access it
> in order to make it useful?
> I'm thinking that algebra and calculus textbooks, and the ability to do
> them, along with metallurgy, mining, and plastics, plus the metric system
> and communicating the importance of *standardizing* measurements and
> financial systems begin to make a reasonable starting point.
> But if no can read the books, and no one can do the math, that information
> will be useless. Right now, pocket calculators and computers seem like a
> big gain in efficiency with no real loss in safety. But I wonder whether
> that will be true in a 100 years?
> ---

Fleabyte -- -- is
an evolving, experimental web-publication
devoted to public computency, which, like
common literacy, is regarded as essential
to an environmentally healthy, democratic

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