Stupid Machines


This generation of people has come to rely on electronic machines, especially computerized ones, to the nth degree.

Machines are stupid. That is, they cannot think and the people who program them make mistakes, so the machines are “showing a lack of ability to learn and understand things; given to unintelligent decisions or acts.”Ω

People with evil intent can program card readers to steal. People with fuzzy brains can program GPS locators to take a person down a dead-end road. So what does that say about the people who rely too heavily on machines?

I am certainly not a Luddite†, as I sit here at my computer keyboard preparing a little opinion piece to be posted on the Internet. But my brain is “turned on” and I override the machine when it makes mistakes.

For instance, when I selected my file folder this morning, the machine asked me if I wanted to open it with Paint Shop Pro. Why would I want to open a folder of text documents with a graphics program? A person who places her every confidence in machines might assume the computer program is making a logical suggestion. I call that gullibility.

My husband is an AC contractor. He often answers a call for service to find the only thing amiss is depleted batteries in the wall thermostat or a clogged air filter. I’m sure auto mechanics have similar experiences. These simpler machines shut down when they are not maintained by people. More technologically advanced systems don’t turn themselves off immediately but instead do erratic things, like your computer screen turning blue.

I think most of us have a love/hate feeling for technology. When machines work properly, they save human time and effort. When they break down, it sometimes seems like their diagnosis, maintenance and repair is hardly worth it. They leave us stranded by the side of the road or without heat in our house or unable to contact our friends.

The real danger is not when machines stop working but when they “make mistakes” and the people running them, who have come to rely too heavily on their artificial intelligence, don’t notice.

Just think of the consequences when the sterilizing machine at your dentist’s office has a miscalculation in the temperature control. One would hope the (human) technician would notice. What happens when your bank’s computer misfires and your deposit goes into the wrong account? One would hope the (human) bookkeeper notices at the end of the day reconciliation, before any damage occurs.

Have you ever sent a text with your Smartphone but the person on the receiving end didn’t get it until three days later? What about those emails that go “into Cyberspace”? Too much reliability upon machines can wreak havoc with business and personal relationships.

Albert Einstein said, “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

Idiot: is that a little like stupid?

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stupid

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite

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About janets123

Children's writer, newspaper columnist, essayist, poet, storyteller
This entry was posted in Short Takes on Life and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stupid Machines

  1. Roberta says:

    At the dawn of the computer age, I did a “funny” speech in our Toastmasters club about how computers may start out as our servants, but they will eventually become our masters. What a scary thought: that people will trust technology so much that they will fail to question anything their computer tells them.

  2. janets123 says:

    I would put forth the idea we are already there, to a degree. Glad to have such an intelligent reader & happy for your feedback.

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