Being smart is a choice

Two thousand years ago some Abacus users could add,
subtract, multiply, divide, figure square roots or cube
roots at high speed. Writing had already been around
for two thousand years and some in each society could
read what happened before and keep accurate records.
Choosing to learn those things helped people become
successful.

There have been forms of binary coding discussed and
in use for many centuries. A code of two symbols
arranged to represent anything you wish was used in
China in the 9th century BC, 5th century BC in India,
1400’s in Polynesia, 1600’s in Europe. Practical uses of
binary code include Braille and Morse code. After the
codes were perfected anyone could learn and use them.

In 1937 a student at Massachusetts Institute of
Technology named Claude Shannon wrote a thesis on
the similarity of binary code and electrical circuits.
This is the combination that led to the widespread use
of rapid electrical recognition of almost anything. The
basis for high speed computing.

In 1962 I took a basic computer course at Detroit
Institute of Technology. I laughed when the instructor
told us computers were controlling our lives. He meant
that these vacuum tube machines were figuring our
monthly bills and keeping track of whether we paid
them on time. They made printed reports that could be
filed.  Errors could be blamed on the machine. Very
funny.

To pass the course we had to learn some computer
language and make the computer do something useful
by punching holes in cards and feeding them through
in a particular order. It required expensive delicate
machines and was time consuming with lots of
problems and mistakes. Most of us ordinary folks
learned to do it anyway.

The Internet and the World Wide Web came along in
the early 1980‘s and since have invaded every aspect
of life. Children in many countries are learning with
computers in first grade. If little kids can do it you know
us adults can if we decide to.

Technology developed using faster and faster
electronic tools is leaping ahead at an unheard of rate.
I read this week that we now have teams of little golf
ball size, three legged robots capable of physically
working together without supervision to build things,
examine things, solve problems.

So where are we going? Wireless brain to computer
connection? Humans with instant knowledge of
everything? Programmed robots for all manual labor?
Automated safety, power, food production,
conservation, climate control, intergalactic travel? Will
it take a genius to keep up? I don’t think so.

Go back as many thousands of years as you like. The
same things are true. Some enjoy the challenge of
keeping up with the changing times and others decide
it’s too much trouble. The difference isn’t intelligence,
it is attitude.

The history of human life is an exciting science fiction
story. At this point it can seriously change every year.
Stay tuned. It’s unfolding as we speak.

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Ken