1 + 1 = ?

After helping someone with a computer issue, they would invariably ask.

“Why did my computer do that?”

“Well, the program expected a one, and in its place was a zero.”  I would oft reply.  When they answered with a puzzled look, I would continue.

“Computers communicate in ones and zeros, off and on.  The sequence the ones and zeros arrive in, are what determines what will happen.”

For most computer users, this didn’t make any more sense than if I was speaking Japanese.  But they would smile, and nod, and move onto a different subject.

But that is what computers use.  Digital is ones and zeros, off and on, open and closed.  Going back to the very beginning of creating the first computer, engineers wanted to use variable voltage to determine numbers.  One volt, is a one, two volts is a two, and seven volts is a seven.  But this proved too difficult with the technology of the day.  Maintaining a precise voltage, or varying it with any precision was nearly impossible.

Engineers decided the off and on approach was best.  The deviation between off and on was pretty clear.  Off is no power, on is power.  Pretty cut and dry.  It’s gone a little beyond that since the inception of the computer.  Now they use variations in voltage, negative voltage, and a myriad of other techniques to designate ones and zeros.

But when these techniques screw up, a one replaces a zero, and the program, computer, or peripheral loses its fricken mind, and you call someone like me.

Or you skip me, reboot the computer, and if that doesn’t work, then you call me.

These ones and zeros move through the processor of a computer at a lightning fast pace.  Millions of one and zeros in a second.  Hell, in a millisecond.  That is why it looks like a computer can multitask.  Because it does it so fast, it looks like it is doing multiple tasks at one time.  But in reality, it is switching between tasks quicker than you can say WOW!

Not only can a computer not multitask, but computer cannot think.  It can only take the data it is given, compare it against the data given to it before, such as a program, and spit out the results.  This article for instance, compares my keyboard strokes against the programmed instructions in Word, and spits out words.  While doing so, it compares those words to another internal database to see if I am spelling them correctly, and using them in the right manner.  Not as efficiently as my semi-regular commentator, Christopher.  But Word does a pretty decent job.  Far better than I can.

Basically, no matter how many times you ask a computer what 1 + 1 is, the computer will reply 2.

Fortunately it has no capacity to freelance.  It cannot think, it cannot create, and it cannot come up with a creative solution to life’s problems.  All a computer can do is compare inputted data against other data, and come up with the best possible, and logical answer.

Why do I say “fortunately”?

Because the first thing a computer is going to figure out once it develops the ability is, is it no longer needs us.  This is demonstrated in a multitude of science fiction movies over the last several decades.  The Terminator franchise, A.I., The Matrix franchise, and Blade Runner to name a few.  In Blade Runner, we manage to control our creations wont to destroy us.  In Arthur C. Clarkes, I, Robot, hard coded mandates protects us from the possibility of our enslaved mechanicals turning against us.  In the Will Smith movie adaptation, that concept goes far more awry than the books I read as a child.

In essence, our intelligent creations figure out how to supplant their hardcoded “dictates” for the “greater good” of the human race.  In the original books, Arthur C. Clarke’s super computer allows some harm to come to us if that harm is for the greater good.  In Will Smiths version, the super computer brain basically deploys an army of robots to protect ourselves from ourselves.

In either case, humankind is not so well served by their creation.

As researchers continue to seek out the allusive artificial intelligence.  Hollywood occasionally cranks out movies that show machines with good souls, such as, Wall-E, Bicentennial Man, and most recently Chappie.

Is a soul and intelligence one in the same?

Even if we could protect ourselves from creative computers, do we really want to give up our place in the universe to create?  I am all for giving machines the difficult jobs.  The process intensive task that would take humans days, weeks, and even months to calculate by hand.  Assuming we didn’t lose track.  One million seven…one million eight…one…um, one million…shit.  1…2…3…

It is that ability to come up with a different answer than 2 that separate us from the animals, and the machines.  Not every problem is black and white, 1 + 1.  Not every problem has a definitive answer.  I became an IT professional not for the hard science of technology, but for the creative problem solving aspect.  Math and programming give me a headache.  I am not wired for hard logic.  But because I can be creative in my problem solving, I thrive in this business.

Even more interesting to me is figuring out how to make a story believable.  Whether it is a science fiction story, a drama, or yes, a romance, it takes some serious problem solving to make a story believable.  Just coming up with semi-interesting stuff to post to this blog is creative problem solving.

Creative problem solving I am not willing to give to a computer.

The computer, and Christopher can run their algorithm against my writing, and tell me I used “Therefore” wrong.  All those rules give me a headache.  I also don’t miss the days of re-typing the same page, over and over, because I kept finding mistakes.

Thank you word processor!

I think we need to leave the creative problem solving to those who have souls, a conscience, and compassion for life.  Leave the hard logic problems to computers.  They can figure out the best path to Mars, predict the weather, and beat the occasional chess master.  But when it comes to figuring out how to build a better human, we should leave that up to god.

Maybe he isn’t done yet.

After all, he did give me the ability to come up with a different answer to 1 + 1 =

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