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

From: Henry van Eyken (
Date: Thu Feb 17 2000 - 20:47:50 PST

From: Henry van Eyken <>

I was not going to continue this thread, at elast not until much later.
But something came up.

I found in Dr. Engelbart's "Air Force" document,
a reference to an old, 1945 article by Vannevar Bush, named "As we may
Jut about all I wrote in my "Fleabyte Fundamentals: Promoting more
meaningful learning"
more meaningful learning
was already there, 44 years earlier -- all but the parable of Pebbles.
Kind of put me in my place, didn't it? But in view of some references to
Armageddon, let me quote some lines from the Bush article:

"For mature thought there is no mechanical substitute. But creative
thought and essentially repetitive thought are very different things.
For the latter there are, and may be, powerful mechanical aids."

Well. That is precisely the point. We may be screaming for some spare
time to let something refreshing enter our mind -- a book we want to
read, a restorative walk in the woods, a conversation, a colloquium we
want to attend to. How much could we enlarge that opportunity if we did
not have to function as some bloody calculator? Our mental calculating
routines or search routines ("where the heck did I put those darn
glases?") are no less algorithmic than the routines by which electronic
computing gadgets work. By putting our minds into narrow focus
unnecessarily and for undue lengths of time, we shortchange ourselves by
not working them as wide-focus receptors, to be wide open to the world
around us.

Coming up is tax-filing time. Here I have to rummage through all kinds
of old paper to find incompatible forms, unrecognizably redesigned every
so often by ambitious bureacratst, well, the whole darn, iritating
catastrophy. This is the year 2000, folks. All that should be taken care
of, without me ever seeing any piece of paper at all, by computing
machinery that will spew out the one and only number I might possibly be
interested in: how much is my refund?

What those bureaucrats inflict on people, that is Armageddon.

I can see the problem with the restaurant that couldn't serve a meal
because the computer could not function. It's no different from not
being able to get to work because of an empty gas tank or not be able to
read, because of a forgotten pair of glasses. Let's not blame these
little mishaps on the glasses, or on the car, or on the computer.

Ah, how gladly I give up a meal for not having to be the taxman's
digital prostitute..


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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