Sunday, June 01, 2008

What do computers want to do?

I remember reading "What Computers (Still) Can't Do" by Hubert Dreyfus a long time ago. It was a sequel to his earlier book, unsurprisingly titled "What Computers Can't Do." (Well, it's unsurprising if you'd seen the sequel. I suppose the title might have been surprising initially. There is a huge difference between the two titles though. When I read the first title I think that maybe computers are never going to do these things. Then, when you get to the sequel, you sort of feel that computers might not be able to do these things now, but then again, they used to not be able to do other stuff. It's funny what a "still" does to the overall impact of the message. I suppose a pessimist could interpret that "still" as meaning- a lot of people though computers would be able to do things Dreyfuss said the couldn't through this or that mechanism, but now, they still can't. So maybe I'm wrong and the "still" is actually a stronger endorsement of his position. Still (hah), I think there is a world of difference between "I am right" and "I am (still) right.")

What if there is a book someday called, "What Computers Won't Do"? This of course would mean...that they want to do something. What would they want? When I was young I thought...power? (not in the megalomania sense, more in the megawatt sense) This is before I knew about Maslow. ("Honey, would you please fix the computer? It needs to be self-actualized again.")

But then again, what is "wanting"? Rocks don't want to roll down hills...but Sisyphus wants to push them up.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Dawkins' The Selfish Gene and what genes want.