Technology: A Tool, Not A Human Facsimile

This GUI interface is intriguing, but I can’t see how it can possibly replace the tactile feel and natural sensory interface of touching, arranging and shuffling piles of paper. That so much energy has gone into developing a project which reproduces this sensation instead of encapsulating it is irksome and perhaps counterintuitive. It is mimesis, rather than transmutation. And while there are positive things which can be said about recreating human environments and experiences in a computer (e.g., it may permit us to understand instinctive impulses from a binary perspective, which could in turn shift paradigms), why don’t software developers and engineers understand that certain human nuances might be better studied or effected through basic human contact?

This reminds me of a game I often play with friends with Blackberries. When out in the real world, if the friend has a Blackberry and I have a cell phone, I then name a piece of information to extract. It could be a general piece of knowledge (Who popularized the Second Law of Thermodynamics?). It could be something as simple as finding out when the next showing of a movie starts. Each person must then ferret out a piece of information: the friend through Google, me through natural telephone conduits. Certain pieces of information are better extracted through the phone (such as when a restaurant is open). Other pieces of information, such as objective facts and data, are better extracted through the Google connection.

What the results here suggest is that, as dazzling as the Internet and technological conduits can be, there are still basic human impulses and communication patterns which can never be entirely reproduced or advanced through machines. (At least not yet.) Of course, where human contact ends and technological contact begins is a subjective question entirely up to the individual. But technology is a tool: an adjunct to the human experience, not a substitute.

(via The Old Hag)

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