Byte out of the Apple

Knowledge and the Apple. There are some remarkable aspects of Apple.

When I look around as I safari (Safari is the name of the web browser software that comes included in the Apple MacOS), I see the positive and the negative impacts of technology, and I don’t mean just the obvious spread of good and evil information. I have heard people over the years state that technology, like everything we make, can be used for good or evil. This may be true, but could it also be true that some technology may be simply not as good for us as humans as we believe? Particularly if we are not careful how we use it. Is technology always neutral? Think about these questions as you read this book and go on safari.

What are we getting into and where are we going with all this high technology (hi-tech)? What is it and the Technojungle promising for our future? These are indeed difficult questions considering the wonderful things we can now do and the speed at which advancements, or growth of the Technojungle, continue to come to us daily. I often feel the Technojungle is mesmerizing. As it would be impossible to discuss even half of the issues, let me look at a few that come to mind.

I have been using Apple Macintosh computers for over 30 years. I always liked the relative ease, that is relative to other computers, with which they can be set up, configured and used. It is, of course, the user experience that has always been at the heart of everything Apple has undertaken. The Apple Macintosh began as, and continues to be, an attempt to make the Technojungle a little more humanizing, but let’s face it, no computer is uncomplicated enough not to have problems. 

As with many other people, I admit to having an ambivalence, or love-hate relationship with most, if not all, technology and the Technojungle. Do you have a love-hate relationship with technology? How about the Technojungle in general?

I will continue to ask many more questions, some of which get asked, sometimes in different ways, more than once in the books. It doesn’t hurt to ask questions more than once to stir up our thoughts and ideas, perhaps just to think again about something. You may change your answers and views as you read on in the books and safari on through your life and on into the Technojungle. If you are writing down your answers, you can revisit and compare your earlier thoughts and ideas with your current ones.

Should we believe that every technological advancement moves us humans forward improving our lives? Do you see any technologies as detrimental to our lives? Are we becoming more human in some ways and less human in other ways? Did we cross over to a new paradigm when we adopted digital technology? Do you find somethings are fundamentally different in the digital Technojungle—perhaps less humanizing? While so much of this book focuses on the digital and online Technojungle, our true focus must be on, just how are we made more or less human by particular aspects of the Technojungle?

Our modern computers were birthed in the world of war and secret codes. The British mathematician Alan Turing, designed and built the first modern computer to crack the codes of the German Enigma machine during WWII. At first, they were hailed as wonderful number crunchers. However, a computer with only a fraction of the capabilities of even a tiny computer of today, took up more than one room and required several people to operate it. 

Alan Turing is considered to be the father of the modern computer—a machine to imitate the thinking of a human. The movie The Imitation Game tells the amazing story. Turing was the mastermind behind designing a machine that would decrypt German messages encoded by the Enigma machine during WWII. Turing and his team built a machine to break the codes of the Enigma machine because “…only a machine can defeat a machine.” (I believe this to be incorrect. Only a human can defeat a machine.) Once Turing’s machine could decrypt the codes, they realized that if they went ahead and broke every message and foiled every attack intercepting every move of the Germans, the Germans would know their codes had been cracked and would change the codes. So they used statistics to determine what intelligence to act on to win the war without giving away the fact that they could break codes. The result was secrets that were kept from everyone, including the British government and the world, for over 50 years. Turing and his team had to play God with human lives letting many people die in order to win the war. Perhaps this is sort of what I meant above when I stated that only and human can defeat a machine—even a war machine. Sure the machine helped, but the humans had to intervene.

Turing’s idea was that a machine could be built which could imitate the human mind. He developed a test that is still used today—the Turing Test. A judge sits in front of two closed doors asking questions. Behind one door is a human and the other an artificially intelligent machine. If the judge can’t tell which answer came from a human, then the machine can think like a human. I think this pre-supposes that the human can hide human idiosyncrasies. Analog human thinking is not only emotional it is imperfect in unpredictable ways. In the Turing test, what human traits do you think might indicate an answer came from a human?

It is from these strange circumstances that the digital side of the Technojungle was born. Alan Turing was the father of the modern computer. As a homosexual, illegal in Britain during that time, he was charged with indecency and, rather than a two year incarceration, chose hormonal chemical castration. It was too much for his mind and he committed suicide after two years. 

Should we tread carefully in the Technojungle given this story describing the roots of computers in war and espionage? How amazing it seems that Turing and his team helped end the war two years early saving an estimated 14 million lives, yet he was rejected by his own country and ended up killing himself never realizing how much he had changed the world. He knew he had done a lot, but had to hold on to important secrets and never saw the world of computers he made possible. Turing is probably the person most responsible for taking the Technojungle into the digital realm. It  was a huge step.

I wonder, if the Technojungle, in trying to think like a human and not quite being able to get it, will also commit suicide someday in the not as expected future? That would be some heavy baggage. 

Computers grow in power and shrink in size at a astonishing rate we even can’t imagine. Along the way, they captivate us with the wonderful things they do. In which ways are you captivated by computers, the Internet and the entire Technojungle? In the span of human history, computers have only been part of our lives for a very short time—sort of a blink of the eye of Earth’s history.

Our lives would definitely be quite different if computers had remained in the hands of corporations with the space and finances to obtain and operate a computer. But something happened in a garage during the 1970s. Two young geniuses, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs discovered that off the shelf electronic parts and devices could be used to build cheap, small computers. The personal computer was born. In a matter of a few years everyone could have a powerful computer in their own home. This was a fundamental change to humankind and the Technojungle and it was ushered in by a company called Apple Computers, Inc., now Apple Inc.

I want to take a moment to safari back to have a look at a few interesting aspects of Apple computers and the personal computing industry. First, what is a byte? In simple terms, it is a collection of eight bits of data that makes it possible for a computer and the Technojungle to know and render a single character, such as a letter of the alphabet or a single digit number. A bit is the smallest unit of digital binary data, a 0 or a 1. Bits and bytes combine to form what some people call knowledge, but I’ll stick with information, or better yet, data. As we learned earlier, many people consider information to be the same as knowledge.

What are some of the ways humans were transformed when personal computers entered their lives? Are computers just devices, or do they carry us into a foreign world which is incompatible with the physical analog nature of a human being? Can we actually say digital information exists, even when it does not exist in a physical form? You can have information at your fingertips, but not have it physically in your hands. You have a file that does not actually exist in a physical form or space. Remember the space-time continuum. That things must reside in a single space at a single time. The exact same computer file can exist in many, hundreds and thousands of computers at the same time. 

Here are more paradoxes. One can go to a webpage without going anywhere. One can communicate with another person without ever meeting them, or be their friend without knowing them. What do these mean for us as humans? Can you think of any other paradoxes?

Isn’t the Technojungle an extremely confusing, …um, place, world, experience? Is all this real? Do we really know what the digital and online Technojungle is? Do we know who we are in the Technojungle? What should we, and what do you, expect in the future? I hope we can begin to clarify at least some of this as we safari onward with this book.

Most of this Technojungle Safari project was done using an Apple MacBook Pro 15″ from mid-2012. That’s right, the computer will be around 10 years old by the time I hope to be finished. Most people get a new computer because it no longer runs smoothly. This computer began life in the hands of my son who used it while studying engineering at university. I don’t know what load that put on it. When he handed it down to me I spent a couple of hundred dollars to double the RAM and replace the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD) having twice the capacity. I also replaced the keyboard and battery. That was many years ago now. I have the computer loaded with software, including professional graphics and publishing software. I often have dozens of website windows open (not recommended for security reasons, but I am careful). During the pandemic and retirement I have been using it day and night. We just had a heat wave with temperatures reaching 41 degrees celsius, so I dug out the cooling pad with a fan. The computer ran boiling hot, but never quit.

Here are a few more thoughts to consider. Much of the bulk of a computer is in the machinery? A keyboard and a screen, for example, are required to allow a human to interface and interact with the computer and the information available. Not only is this bulk, it slows the interaction down. Computers work in milliseconds, however, the operation of a keyboard takes much, much longer. Have you ever wondered why we have onscreen buttons and other graphics to make the digital world look like our physical world? Isn’t all this contributing to a clumsy, awkward exchange between humans and computers? If computers get smart enough somewhere in the future, will this frustrate the computer into perhaps bypassing humans? Might the computer of the future, even the Technojungle, decide to control humans? Could this already be happening in some way?

Have you heard the statement that technology is neither good nor bad, that it is just how it is used? Is this always true? Have you ever wondered where technology and the Technojungle is taking us on the murky path into the future, or are you simply infatuated with technology and the Technojungle today and what you can do with it?

The late Steve Jobs of Apple seemed to be able to step back to get a birds-eye view of the Technojungle. He is now considered a genius and visionary. As the story goes, Jobs chose the name Apple so that the company name would come before Atari, a company that might compete with his company. Apples have a good human connotation, such as health—“An apple a day…” It is a rags to riches story with plenty of ups and downs. Beginning in a garage; as of this writing, Apple is now the largest publicly traded company in the world. Is Apple, Inc. one of the kings of the Technojungle? What about the future?

Original Apple logo.

The original Apple logo was in coloured stripes like a rainbow. Jobs insisted it be in colour to humanize the logo. In the book of Genesis in the Bible is the story of the great flood. In the story, God uses a rainbow to promise He would never flood the Earth again. Also in Genesis, we find the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden facing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Was it a bite, or byte taken out of the apple? Take another look at the Apple Inc. logo. Curious, isn’t it?

Whether the above aspects of Apple, Inc. might mean it is a more human-friendly company than others in the Technojungle or not, we still need to keep our eyes and ears open. As you continue to read and safari on in this book you will come to understand more about your relationship with these Technojungle companies and their influence on your humanness and humanity. Remember to focus not so much on the technology, but on learning about being a human being and living in this world of technology—the Technojungle.

Apple’s motto is ‘Think different.’ I want your motto to be ‘Think yourself.’ I want us to keep thinking and not rely on technology and the Technojungle to think for us. This is the only way we can ensure we are not dehumanized by technology in the future and we can carry on being human beings in a world of technology—the Technojungle. 

Are you ready to go on safari?


2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s