Extending the mind
Very little carpentry can be done with one's bare hands, just like very little thinking can be done with one's bare mind. This paraphrasing from Intuition pumps reset my thinking about computers.
Our first tool for thinking was the ability to write things down. After that came graphs and plots. Eventually someone invented spatial memory techniques. Then spaced repetition systems were created to help us improve our memory, which eventually became programs like Anki.
I like to think of computers in many ways. One of them is to think of them as tools which extend our mind. This tool has practically infinite memory, patience, stamina, and speed. I can use those properties of this system to improve my own thinking processes.
The memory reserve of a computer means that I no longer have to remember everything. Things that I decide are not important, can be stored on a computer and retreived whenever I want. For example, I don't remember all the conversations I had with everyone in my life. That's what a chat history is for. The infinite patience of a computer system means that activities which take months to execute can be done with perfection using computers. Recording the movements of starts and planets used to take years to compile. They are now literally done within hours because of computer systems. The speed of computers means that country wide census which used to take around 4-5 years to calculate can now be done in a matter of days without mistakes that often pagued human calculations. Computer programs are also tireless. The software running on the voyager systems has been running for ~43 years now.
How do these systems extend the mind then? Our "mind" is dependent on the physical capabilities of the brain in our body. Any damage to the brain causes changes in our thinking, memory, facial recognition, and personalities too. Since our brain is a product of evolution in a 3d environment, it is also restricted on several levels. Humans can't percieve exponentiation, they cannot handle 4d spaces very well, and they need tools like UMAP to perceive high dimentional data with their own limited sense organs. Most of these limitations of perception can be solved by augmenting your senses with computer systems. In this sense, computers can improve our perception of things, just like a radio receiver suddenly allows us to percieve radio waves which are imperceptible with our natural senses. One cool example is that the interstellar black hole was actually a prediction and not an artists imagination. They wrote a paper about it too.
Other than just an individual, our society can also be thought of as a product of the human mind. Computer systems have been affecting those as well. Systems like GRE which are commonly thought to show intelligence/success are now known to only indicate wealth and nothing else. Just like those, systems designed by computer software also have biases. Online marketplaces like Uber and Amazon have inherent biases and affect society. Uber has massively reduced the volume of business in the taxi/auto industry and amazon has hit small stores disproportionately. One of the biggest effects of software in society is the increasing polarization of people caused by misinformation and addiction to perception bubbles on social media. The social dilemma is a nice introduction to the topic for the layman.
Software has human and political effects. Increasing awareness about what all software can and cannot do is the only way to combat the damage ignorance is causing. Since software extends the human mind and is a tool to be used by people, we need to be careful about who are the people using these tools. Educating ourselves about this field is the only defence we have.
These questions were asked during the signup process for the event. I've answered them to the best of my ability.
- Why the lack of concentration on building decentralised platforms and services, especially when it comes to critical infrastructure like AADHAR?
- I think this is mostly because of policies set by the government regarding software. I know for example that the Department of IT and Communications, Rajasthan had at one point avoided open source software due to nobody being there to 'service' the software. Other than that at the level at which AADHAR was implemented, I'm sure there are economic forces that would like to retain control of the data. We cannot expect the government to be progressive. By following the rules for rulers we understand that change must always come from the people, or from a government that is not designed to survive.
- Shouldn’t we train our engineers in the humanities as well as their STEM subjects (given the abysmal state of ethics in technology rn)? In a similar vein to telling people from the humanities why they should learn CS.
- The National Education Policy 2020 addresses that to some extent I think. It would still be misleading to say that knowledge of humanities correlates with ethics in technology. I think what's missing is the discussion about the impact of technology in ethical concerns. How some systems are more inclined to produce unethical behavior is something that's under-discussed in CS courses, although it has been noted before.
- The people who function in non-technical fields should always have the opportunity to learn about technology, thought I don't think it should be made compulsory. This is akin to saying that painters must study chemistry since paints are chemicals. It would be more useful to say that painters must be made aware that there is a field called chemistry which they might want to study if they want to understand their paints better.
- Sir I have not explored the world of coding and computing yet , which is the future I believe . So how to begin with it ? I am an eco hons student 1st year in st stephens , how coding and technology can help me with my main subject and how to learn it now !?
- Most cities have a lot of programming and software user groups. Delhi has India linux user group Delhi (ILUGD) and Jaipur has PyJaipur. You can join those to find like minded people. Of course college itself has the Computer science society which can help you learn programming. We used to conduct "St. Python" which taught people the python programming language once a week. Start learning with one language, for example Python and then move on to other languages. Once you learn the major families, other languages become very easy to learn. For initial practice place like hackerrank.com which offer competitive coding problems are nice.
- Eco combined with CS results in powerful systems like High frequency trading. In fact companies like Zerodha allow you to use your CS knowledge to trade on the Indian stock market. This lets you apply your eco knowledge and your CS knowledge.
- What can a B.Sc. maths student do with Computer applications + mathematics after graduation ? I am a Mathematics background person, I want to switch in the field of data science and data analytics, what should I do now ?
- Lots of people from math undergrad go for an MSc in CS. You could pick up programming as a mainstream thing and just go on to become a software engineer/architect or something. Otherwise you could work to expand mathematics with the help of software like The Coq proof assistant.
- I have never delved into the world of coding and AI , infact in school I took physical edu as my optional instead of cs . Since I will begin my college life soon , how should I approach cs ? I am a student of ba economics hons.
- I've answered these concerns above.
- Is there some scope in ML for freshers?How can I get entry level job in these field?
- For ML, most entry level jobs were just Jr Software engineer jobs disguised as ML jobs. This can be seen by the quick reduction in the number of these openings since the pandemic began. For good ML based jobs, look at what the organization does for bread and butter before applying. You'll need to learn programming first, then a little bit of basic statistics before being eligible for Jr. ML engineer/scientist/research engineer jobs.
- Career options in web designing. And what about AI and machine learning.
- Web is the interface for almost every software developed today. That makes web design and development one of the major fields in the CS job industry right now and this will continue to dominate the market for as long as we have desktop/laptop computers. Pick a language, learn to build a website, learn basic design principles and then keep on learning. Salaries are good in this field if you are competent in your craft.
- ML and AI are currently buzz words, just like Big Data was a few years back. These things have important things to contribute to human advancement but you'll need to be careful about separating the noise from actual signal. Before starting take an actual course or read a book in the field. Don't start off based on youtube videos and medium articles.
- It's just the beginning of the technology or we have just arrived at the first stare and there is long way to go in field of technology.
- Technology is a tool. We'll go on as long as we can innovate.
- Is it important for everyone to learn coding? Specifically for sciences. How much time coding will go on???
- It's important for everyone in the science to know programming, just like it's important to know mathematics. You don't have to learn the deepest parts of the subject but if you know the basics, your own field of study will become a lot easier. For example, zoologists commonly use programs to manage their data, which consumes tremendous human effort to manage manually.
- Programming is going to be a permanent feature of human life, just like mathematics has become now. People can choose to ignore it but will be affected by it nevertheless.
- Yeah how can we start a career in ML
- Mentioned above.
- HOW PAYTEM AND OTHER SIMILAR APPS CONTRIBUTED IN MAKING INDIA A TECHNOLOGICAL ADOPTED COUNTRY? AND HOW CAN SOMEONE THINK ABOUT TO LAUNCH AN APP LIKE PAYTEM.
- I'm not sure I understand what you mean by 'Technological adopted country'. I would argue that more than paytm, UPI has transformed the country for the better. This is because paytm is a normal bank with a focus on providing customers with a online-first experience and UPI is a protocol which allows any bank to allow quick,efficient online payments.
- You'll first need to identify a problem that can be solved with technology. The problem usually dictates what platform your software will run on. In the case of Paytm it was a mobile phone. Once you know the platform + problem, designing and running the software is an engineering task which is well documented.
- Can you suggest some tips for how to start programming for newcomers in this field
- I've answered this above.
- Where to learn competitive programming
- I've answered this above.
- The options for arts students in computer field.
- How technology affect labor?
- Labor is one of the things that will bear the brunt of automation. The invention of the steam engine made horses and donkeys redundant in most settings. Just like that, mechanization of factories has made human labor redundant in most assembly line jobs like car manufacturine. Increasingly complex and competent software will cause a loss of labor jobs. A task that could be done by 100 people in a day will tend to be done by 1 person in a day. Take for example speech to text / dictation. Entire industries which existed before in order to transcribe doctors' notes to text have disappeared simply because software can now do that job with superhuman perfection. The only way to escape this trend is to keep learning new skills and hone your creativity since that is one aspect that is still far off from the graps of automation.
- Now a days we are using a lot of computers and living in the world of machine which is necessary also in today's time so my question from you is that what according we should do so that it's not effect for our health and we can also do our work.
- It's important to remember that computers and desk jobs in general are a recent invention in the human timeline (500 years or so). On an evolutionary timeline, our bodies are still not adjusted to these ways of living. We evolved in a very physically active world, where physical activity was a daily event instead of the sedentary lifestyle we've now come to accept as normal in the cities. It's imporarnt to make sure that the body gets it's daily dose of exercise. Our college has wonderful sports facilities, pick those up! The ridge is beautiful for a walk! If nothing else, pick up pehelwan exercises and do them in your room. I usually go for walks without music/headphones in the farm near my house and play lots of basketball and badminton.