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Y2K technology issues

The problem isn't the use of technology, but the abuse of technology.
We should not build systems that are so incomprehensable that they cannot
have an easily understood "Manual Override". As systems become more
complex, the blueprints that make them work (whether that be software or
otherwise) must be widely available so that it is possible to learn and
comprehend these systems. We should never be dependant on things that
are impossible (even given the knowledge and time) to understand (whether
through legal or other restrictions).

Russell McOrmond, Internet Consultant,


Arnold Smith responds:

Russell, I agree with you that we will continue to depend on technology.
But the problems with current computer systems in particular go far deeper
than corporate shyness about making source code available. Computer
software is designed from a perspective that presupposes the existence of
clean, discrete conceptual categories in terms of which the world can be
modelled. Unconsciously adopting this paradigm, software designers are
only following the lead of scientific culture, which has had much success
over the last few hundred years using exactly this kind of abstraction.
However, the world itself is always richer, more fluid, more changeable,
messier, more playful than this kind of symbolic abstraction can track.
Having evolved biologically over billions of years in this environment,
humans have intuitive ways of adapting to the particular, the unexpected
local detail, the exception that doesn't quite fit, the slow change of all
the ground rules. We haven't (yet) figured out how to give computers this
kind of deep flexibility, despite research in fuzzy logic and neural
networks. Until we understand this mismatch, computer systems will
continue to be brittle and fault-prone, and will be unintuitive to use.

In my view, the reason that it is so hard for computer science to solve
this problem is that the underlying issues lie deep within the foundations
of modern culture --- in its metaphysics, its orientation to the world, its
lack of understanding of individuality and of the nature of mind. The
failures of computer science (particularly artificial intelligence) provide
one more vantage point from which one can see that our entire worldview
needs radical revision. Modern physics is another vantage point, as are
current crises in cognitive science, social history, psychology, and
medicine (to name but a few).

Arnold Smith <>

See also The Real Year 2000 Crisis