In the Tradition
In the Tradition
Fifty years ago there were no stored-program binary electronic computers. Indeed, in the mid 1940s computer was a job description; the computer was a person. Much has happened in the ensuing half-century. whereas the motto of the 1950s was “do not bend, spindle, or mutilate,” we now have become comfortable with GUI wIMP (i.e., Graphic User Interface; windows, Icons, Mouse, and Pointers). whereas computers once were maintained in isolation and viewed through large picture windows, they now are visible office accessories and invisible utilities. whereas the single computer once was a highly prized resource, modern networks now hide even the machines’ geographic locations. Naturally, some of our perceptions have adapted to reflect these changes; however, much of our understanding remains bound to the concepts that flourished during computing’s formative years. For example, we have moved beyond thinking of computers as a giant brain (Martin 1993), but we still hold firmly to our faith in computing’s scientific foundations. The purpose of this book is to look forward and speculate about the place of computing in the next fifty years. There are many aspects of computing that make it very different from all other technologies. The development of the microchip has made digital computing ubiquitous; we are largely unaware of the computers in our wrist watches, automobiles, cameras, and household appliances. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) sees the brain as an organ with some functions that can be modeled in a computer, thereby enabling computers to exhibit “intelligent” behavior. Thus, their research seeks to extend the role of computers through applications in which they perform autonomously or act as active assistants. (For some recent overviews of AI see waldrop 1987; Crevier 1993.) In the domain of information systems, Zuboff (1988) finds that computers can both automate (routinize) and informate, that is, produce new information that serves as “a voice that symbolically renders events, objects, and processes so that they become visible, knowable, and sharable in a new way” (p. 9).
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