Keith Boesky has an interesting essay on the implications of letting “the computer” do everything for us. He foresees a bleak future, where most everything is mediated by computers and little technical mistakes could have dire consequences.
He also invokes the singularity meme. His take though, is that computers are not necessarily becoming smarter, but humans are getting dumber (by letting mental skills atrophy, due to reliance on tech). Although a bit paranoid, these ideas are food for thought.
Some people identify the Singularity as the point computers become more intelligent than humans. But intelligence is relative. By trusting the bots as we do, we are making ourselves less intelligent, less independent and more reliant on the machines. My grandfather ran a drug store in Detroit. He could take a stack of numbers as long as his arm, run his finger down them like a blind man reading braille, and add them up faster than anyone could punch them into an adding machine. Later on, he would stand next to my dad with a stack of number and add them up while my dad punched them into the calculator. My dad never got the answer any faster than my grandfather, and my grandfather never trusted the calculator. I couldn’t add a stack of numbers as long as my little finger if you lit a fire under my ass. I rely on calculators to do it. The portion of the brain my grandfather developed so well, completely atrophied on me. More significantly, the distrust of the bots atrophied as well.
[via Mark Pesce]