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FleshFactor: I'm closing the pod bay doors myself!

A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

Grayson Cooke wrote:

>I guess I just have one question this time: why is it in any way GOOD
>that we "can be more lazy about the whole thing"? When my VCR tells me
>what to watch and when (and even IF) I'm going to slap it. 

I think the problem is with the word "lazy."  I do not think that there is
anything wrong with automating "low priority" functions that tend to
contribute to the sometimes defining background noise that is modern life. 
For instance, I have my Mac set up to log on and retrieve my email
automatically every morning, so by the time I'm ready to sip my first
coffee of the day my email is nicely displayed.  I do not think this has
anything to do with being lazy.  It is merely a shortcut so that I can
spend more time performing the high level functions of answering my mail. 
With a simple keystroke I can make the computer ignore its startup folder
if I chose not to log on and get my mail.  If there was pattern
recognition software that could "notice" that I did this everyday and then
suggest that this task be automated, then so be it.  I can always
intervene and disable the function.  That is what is important. 

Many low level functions that people used to have to perform are already
automated.  For example, one does not have to turn on the heat or air
conditioning every time they feel cold or hot.  We 'program' the device
with our preference and it diligently does its job.  There is an autopilot
function on every large airplane.  It takes over the repetitive 'no
brainer' job of flying the pre-programmed course.  If something goes wrong
we simply switch the autopilot off and take control.  Why is it that as
soon as we use the word 'computer' people start getting nervous.  It has
everything to do with the lack of knowledge about how computers actually
function.  A friend of mine was trying to get her 486 laptop to run
Netscape, without much luck.  She complained to me, "My computer doesn't
like Netscape."  Computers don't like or dislike anything.  If I override
my Mac's auto-launch of Netscape it does not get its feelings hurt and
then sulk and then plan a crash at an inopportune time.  Her problem was
easily solved when the right information was given to the program. 

The key to these automated systems is that they have readily accessible
override controls.  We want HAL to keep the ship on course to Jupiter, but
HAL should also have an easily accessible override.  I always thought that
it was ridiculous that Dave couldn't just say, "HAL, relinquish full
control of the ship to me," and then close the pod bay doors himself.  But
that wouldn't have made for a very exciting movie, nor one that played on
our fears of technology. 

mark sottilaro <msottila@mailbox.syr.edu>

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