Monday, June 19, 2006

The paradox

It is generally accepted that of the following three options, only two can be satisfied at a time:

  • To do something well
  • To do something fast
  • To do something cheap

We can combine the three & say that doing something well takes time or money, sometimes both. While money is the external market factor, taking time to achieve a goal & achieve it well, more often than not, translates into time taken to gather knowledge, time taken to generate alternatives, time taken to evaluate alternatives, time taken to implement the solution & so on. It is one of the goals of technology to reduce this time factor. So you have spreadsheet packages to organize data & produce, say, some kind of reports to help you decide faster & better. Note that

  • The spreadsheet package example does not reduce the knowledge gathering time, for one.
  • While it makes evaluation simpler, it does not entirely erase the need for human intervention.

It is then probably reasonable enough to deduce, in general, that the use of technology reduces the time taken for a process. Therefore, the more we use technology the faster we can do things. Hidden behind this otherwise benign fact, is the human bottleneck. We need technology because we're slow. Moreover, we're destined to be this way because of the way we're designed, the way we learn & retain knowledge, the way we process information, the way we can't learn easily what is already known, & the total amount of data we remember.

Machines of course have none of these problems.

The Age of Spiritual Machines seems to indicate a future where human existence is slowly enhanced & then slowly replaced by machines.
I'm just wondering that while technology lends itself very well to the solution domain, it is humans & their institutions that constitute the problem domain. Therefore, unless you have/perceive problems, you do not need to do solve it. However, if robots are to be problematic, why make them? And if humans are to continue, then the idea of perfection will continue with it.

And as always, it'll just be on the horizon.

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