We may hope that there is no longer anyone who still believes that technology has the answer to every problem. We are no longer the eager beavers of the mid-20th century who believed that whatever problems developed from one technology would be cured by the next technology. Like global warming addles the eggs of penguins starves polar bears and raises sea levels throughout the world, we understand the hubris involved in such thinking. And yet – even as these authors argue against the type of rosy optimism that once dominated thinking about how the machines that we created would save the world for us. On the other hand, each of these writers acknowledges the importance of human creativity and human ingenuity – traits that may but do not have to lead us to acts of hubris.
Ellen Ullman, in her essay “Out of Time”, for example, discusses the elegance of programming and the power of machines and the ways in which writing computer code for inanimate objects can be a fundamentally life-affirming and humane practice. Computers are just computers – but human intelligence gives them life, and they, in turn, allow us to expand our intelligence, to expand our human ability to think and create and dream in ways that would never be possible without such machines.
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