Discussion on: Lost potential of personal computing

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Phil Ashby

Great article Jeff - thanks!

For a long time now, I have thought about computing/computers through the lens of the two unique things it does really, really well:

  • Adding up. Unbelievably fast and without error: this opens up new worlds for the humans using the machine, such as virtual reality, numerical analytics (eg: drug design, cryptanalysis) and machine learning.
  • Communicating reliably in complex networks: hello Internet (other networks are available!), from this we have ways to co-ordinate many machines into super computers, and for those machines to interact with lots of other technologies. It also provides us humans with new ways to communicate too, we have a whole set of new human tribes/communities that only exist through this power (like dev.to :))

Successful / fun / amazing (choose one or more) things typically push one or both of these abilities, the exemplar for me being modern large scale immersive games such as Elite:Dangerous, although the data analytics and sheer volume of information distribution related to particle research at CERN comes close!

Can we formulate some of "the problems facing mankind" in ways that are tractable to these computing powers? I think we have done in some areas such as medicine (eg: DNA sequencing) and finance (eg: ApplePay), perhaps freedom of speech (eg: ToR & Wikileaks - YMMV). But what of social inequality, poverty, tribalism and the politics of scarcity? I'm not sure Twitter helps much with these either...!

It's certainly been a while since I used my own computers to improve my own life (actually my fishes lives - by automating their lighting), although I am slowly working on a facial recognition project that should help find nice pictures of family & friends, even after Picasa stops working.