Thursday, August 7, 2003

How Does Technology Transform Thinking? (科技如何改變思想?)

How Does Technology Transform Thinking? (科技如何改變思想?)
[創意組織 ]

How Does Technology Transform Thinking?

I GET cranky when there's a ten-second delay in downloading a Web site. A few years ago, I was thrilled to receive same-day letters by fax, and a few years before that, snail mail that arrived within the week was just fine. It's not time that's accelerating; it's our thinking. Technology has produced multitudes of machines with alluring functions, features, and options--machines that benefit our lives. But what is the real impact of technology? Don't let the superficial glitz of flashy gadgets and light-speed information deceive you. Acquiring knowledge and making decisions--both for individuals and institutions--has been altered forever. The real impact of technology is not on the design of electronic apparatus but on human cognition; the true transformation is in the way we think. How do advances in technology affect our modes of thought? How is thinking changing, and how do we adapt to those changes? We invited five accomplished thinkers to reflect on the deeper consequences of technology.


Dr. Francis (Frank) Fukuyama, a professor of public policy at George Mason University, is an international authority on social and political thought. Frank discusses how trust works in a high-tech society and what happens to decision-making under pressure of time.

Dr. Bart Kosko, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, is the author of The Fuzzy Future. Bart explains how the uncertainties of fuzzy logic and the process of pattern recognition can help our thinking.

Dr. George Kozmetsky, co-founder of Teledyne and an early investor in Dell Computers, was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton, for building business incubators where young companies can grow. George discusses how technology creates wealth and prosperity.

Dr. Marvin Minsky, the longtime director of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, is the author of The Society of Mind. Marvin talks about some of the social consequences of burgeoning technology and shows how artificial intelligence can explain and improve human thinking.

Dr. Bruce Murray, a professor of planetary science and geology at Caltech and a former director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is president of the Planetary Society, in Pasadena, which fosters public interest and participation in space exploration. Bruce reflects on the relationship between communications technology and human development.

ROBERT: George, for fifty years you've participated in the technology revolution. You've been president of the Institute of Management Sciences, and you've assisted in developing over a hundred technology-based companies, including Dell. For fifteen years, you were dean of the Graduate School of Business of the University of Texas at Austin. Give us an overview of the progress of technology and how it affects our thinking.

GEORGE: When our current technology started coming in, we could stop using paper-and-pencil methods. We could formulate complex equations, which is the scientific way, and solve them electronically. We believed that we'd get more time to think, but what we discovered was that technology just made it easier to find things--we could replace an hour of searching with fifteen minutes of reading. But then we found that our horizons were expanding faster than we could collect data, and so we realized that we needed to get into artificial intelligence and other techniques.

ROBERT: Speaking of artificial intelligence, Marvin, you are professor of media sciences and arts at MIT and a pioneer, of course, in artificial intelligence. Your book, The Society of Mind, combines insights from developmental child psychology and computer systems. What's the basic theory behind the book?

MARVIN: Well, it's to try to figure out how the mind works without the traditional belief that somewhere inside the mind there's a "self" in control and commanding everything. So the question is, How do you get mindlike behavior from the brain? The brain is really made of about four hundred different computers. They do different things, they don't agree on everything--so how do you get reasonable, commonsense behavior out of such a system?

ROBERT: And the concept of a "society" means that all of these brain systems are working together?

MARVIN: Right. It's not like human society, where a person does pretty well independently.

ROBERT: And how has the impact of technology affected human thinking?

MARVIN: I don't know that technology has changed thinking very much yet, but we're just at the threshold. Computers only got going around 1950. We still don't know how to program them to do commonsense kinds of things, just technical things. But that's going to happen, sometime in the near or far future. Then our thinking will change.

ROBERT: Frank, you're the author of an acclaimed book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. What do you mean by trust?

FRANK: Trust is basic to any human activity, which is almost always social, involving the cooperation of two or more people. Trust is simply the ability of people to interact with each other in the expectation that they're going to be honest, they're going to reciprocate, they're going to make good on their commitments.

ROBERT: And how is trust affected in a society dominated by technology?

FRANK: It doesn't become less important. In a way, it becomes more important. Take something like the Internet. You can deal with anybody anywhere in the world--that's the potential--but can you trust them? The real core of the problem in creating E-commerce or socializing over the Net is, How do people come to share values, not just bytes and bits?

ROBERT: Bart, your books on fuzzy thinking sanction contradiction, endorses ambiguity, and demands that we get comfortable with uncertainty. What is fuzzy logic, and how does it affect our thinking?

BART: Fuzzy logic or fuzzy thinking is trying to see things in shades of gray as we reason. For example, when does life begin? At conception? In the first trimester? When does a teenager become an adult? Is it exactly on the first second of the eighteenth birthday? The law says it is, but such precision isn't real or practical. So fuzzy logic has been trying to capture the grayness of inherent uncertainty in our reasoning and thinking processes. Capture it in mathematics, and then endow that structure in computers to make them a bit smarter.

ROBERT: Bruce, how can the concept of space exploration help human beings think about themselves in new ways?

BRUCE: Well, it already has. The seminal effect of the first images of Earth taken from orbit and from the moon, back in the sixties, revolutionized our global self-perspective and led to the environmental movement. Similarly, when Voyager took pictures of the earth as a pale blue dot embedded in the vastness of the solar system, it had the secondary effect of reminding people that the universe doesn't revolve around the earth, doesn't even revolve around the star we call the sun. And so space has already changed our frame of reference, to say nothing of what may lie ahead.

ROBERT: Was the environmental movement actually triggered by those pictures of Earth?

BRUCE: Yes, that really happened, and that's why it spread so rapidly--because the catalyst was those images, spread by television, which was our medium of global communication at that point.

ROBERT: Let's broadly look at how technology affects thinking, because some say that it's nothing less than a shift in worldview. George [Kozmetsky] was talking about how something that used to take an hour now takes fifteen minutes. What does that do to the way we make decisions, the way we reflect or meditate?

MARVIN: Again, I have mixed feeling about questions like that, because I think we still think in pretty much the same way. Our brains haven't been changed, but the tools that we have are immensely better. If somebody asks me a question of fact, I can usually either fail or succeed in finding the answer from the Web pretty fast. As for computing, we can solve problems numerically and analytically--

ROBERT: Aren't there pressures to be less reflective and make decisions faster, because facts are coming at us faster and are more readily at our disposal, and people expect faster answers?

MARVIN: Well, there are a lot of problems like that. Sometimes we're under pressure to decide faster; sometimes, with the great leverage of technology, a decision can affect more people and in a shorter time. One of the most dangerous things is the rapid communication in political affairs: you might have a TV network asking, "What does the public think?" and five minutes later they'll say that seventy percent of the American people think such-and-such, and so forth.

ROBERT: And maybe it was thirty percent just two days earlier.

MARVIN: That's right. And if you wait a week, maybe it'll settle down. But very few of these media people are aware that such sampling is unstable and very dangerous--opinions can spread like an epidemic. The general populace seems to think that if a lot of people believe something, then they should, too. It's called a flip-flop, and in computers it leads to the destruction of information rather than the increasing of it.

ROBERT: Bart, do you find that your own decision-making processes have been speeding up?

BART: Well, to some degree--which is a typical answer of a fuzzy theorist. In the early days of radio, we could hear a story; later we could see it on television; now we can experience it with interactive, multimedia effects on the Internet and perhaps in theaters in the future. I'd like to advance a thesis, though. How does technology, in the broadest terms, increase our ability to recognize more and more complex patterns? Bruce mentioned a good example--we finally saw Earth as a small blue sphere. In the 1940's, science fiction movies cast the earth as gray. As recently as the American Revolution, say, weather was still a mystery. Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to work out the concept of weather fronts--something we take for granted when we look at that nightly weather map. Our perspective takes on ever larger scales, going back into geological time; with each step of technology, we recognize more patterns, process more patterns, make more connections, in an ever richer way.

ROBERT: Frank, let's explore the impact of technology--from how you write your books to how institutions make decisions.

FRANK: For me, technology makes things easier. If I had to deal with typists, with gathering information, and the other kinds of headaches that you have in writing a book, it would not be possible to publish what I do. I think there are certain institutions and situations where the impact of technology is even greater. For example, in foreign policy, there's no question that officials are under pressure to make decisions faster. That's the big impact of worldwide telecommunications--the CNN effect, which has been talked about in the media. When vast audiences see immediate images of refugees, or a captured soldier being dragged through the streets of a foreign city, it forces policy makers to react immediately, which they wouldn't have had to do in an earlier generation. And it seems to me that speed doesn't necessarily improve the quality of their decisions. On the other hand, you have this huge impact in terms of sympathy. You see somebody starving to death in Africa--if you'd seen it in newsprint, it would have been an abstraction. But when you see these same images on television, it becomes something that's much harder to push aside.

ROBERT: How do you assess instant telecommunications? Do you worry about the manipulation of public opinion?

FRANK: Overall, the immediacy is probably a good thing, but it can certainly be mismanaged. As Marvin [Minsky] was saying, poll numbers going up can lead to instantaneous decisions--you've got to do something--when a more reflective kind of thought process would have allowed you to think of possible counterproductive results, things that you hadn't thought about before. So I think this is something that needs management.

BART: It certainly doesn't make for a stable state of mind. Doubt is very hard for us to cope with. We like rounding things off in a binary, yes-or-no way--with them or against them--particularly in response to graphic images on TV. Or in polls. It's hard living with uncertainty, but the world's full of it.

ROBERT: So you're teaching us how to put up with doubt and uncertainty?

BART: I usually find myself saying that there's nothing uncertain about uncertainty if you're very certain you don't know something. Or you're not sure. And you learn to live with it.

GEORGE: Let me put the issue in political terms. I remember worrying, when we were first developing information technology, that in a democracy people could vote out of their kitchens, right? Push a button--give your opinion on any issue you like. We've been seeing some of that--for example, initiatives in California. We're reacting so quickly! And boy, have we created a new uncertainty that we'd better be afraid of! I'd rather have the old uncertainty, where I knew it was uncertain and I'd have to think about it.

BRUCE: It's always helpful to view problems not just over the last year or two but over the last century, or many centuries. There's been what I like to term a symbiotic relationship between human development and communications technology. Go back to Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press. That was the first major way for propaganda or new ideas to be circulated to the masses. And that led to the development of a whole set of religious and cultural transformations. More recently, there was radio, especially battery-powered portables with earphones, which revolutionized the Middle East, Africa, and other such areas, because people who were mixing religion and politics could reach the masses. Otherwise there was no way to reach them. It was cheap, it worked, and it revolutionized the second half of the twentieth century. Now we have television, where we're absorbing images, and the relationship between fact and fantasy can be very difficult. Technology has almost made the word "thinking" obsolete.

ROBERT: This can be dangerous. The potential for mass manipulation is frightening.

BRUCE: We're reacting. We're dealing with tremendous sensory inputs and producing outputs in shorter and shorter time frames.

ROBERT: You may get a hundred E-mails a day, and you have to react to them.

BRUCE: But that's good, because I have to react to the content. What's very bad is seeing images, or hearing sounds or the opinions of celebrities, which I don't evaluate. There I'm just reacting--

ROBERT: --emotionally, not analytically.

BRUCE: This is not some academic exercise in logical thinking. What really happens to people when they're bombarded with this kind of input? That's the big, scary question.

ROBERT: Let's talk about interdisciplinary thinking, a critical characteristic of technology. George, you've pioneered getting academia, business, and government to work together.

GEORGE: You need a focus to all this. When I started out, I came up with the question: "How do you generate wealth and prosperity and share it at home and abroad?" And I wondered, Gosh, is it possible to get the three sectors to work together? The academic sector working with the business sector, and both working with the government sector? And I found that if you have a crisis, it's easier to do. But how do you do it without a crisis? I'd like some ideas on that.

ROBERT: Tell us about your pioneering work with business incubators, where numerous new companies have been "hatched," often in association with universities or government labs.

GEORGE: Most innovations are bottom-up, not top-down. You have to have laboratories to do that. But how do you convert innovations into wealth and prosperity? I said, "Hell, I'm just going to have real companies try it and see what happens." But then I found that that wasn't enough by itself. We needed a physical place where these newly born companies could be housed [i.e., incubated] and get all the administrative and business services easily and efficiently, so they could concentrate on their new products or services. And we know that venture capital doesn't do much for start-up companies--people with venture capital like to invest when you're a long way downstream. So I started a capital network--just simply matching investors with entrepreneurs, like a TV dating game.

ROBERT: Had any successful marriages?

GEORGE: We've now learned how to place about $150 million to $200 million a year.

FRANK: There are many forces in the modern academy that are pushing in the opposite direction. The complexity of technology and the volume of it result in this disciplinary specialization that exerts a kind of tyrannical influence over the way people are trained. You'll never find anyone more intimidated than a young professor without tenure, because his or her discipline exerts this absolute control over any kind of thinking outside the box. There are a lot of institutional obstacles to interdisciplinary thinking.

ROBERT: Marvin, do you see institutional pressures against interdisciplinary thinking?

MARVIN: I'm not sure there are any good generalizations to make. There are so many different kinds of personalities in young professors. Some may be intimidated--they want security and they get what they want. But some aren't.

ROBERT: Have you ever felt intimidated?

MARVIN: I don't care much what other people think about me. So it's hard to intimidate me, unless you're [Caltech physicist and Nobel Laureate] Richard Feynman--

ROBERT: And he's dead.

MARVIN: Well, it doesn't matter that he's dead. I have a very good copy of him, and if I say something too speculative, I can hear him say, "Well, what would be the experiment for that?" I think young academics need attachments--peers, people who imprint them, self ideals. We all have imprints from a bunch of people. Sometimes, when I'm writing, I hear the voice of another dead scientist, [artificial intelligence pioneer] Warren McCullough, and he says, "Oh, that's very nice" or "that's pretentious." What I'm afraid of is, given the advance of the media, who are the internal mentors built into the minds of our citizens? It's ninety-eight percent sports idiots, actresses, actors. Why are actors heroes? Because they're good liars. That's what it takes to be an actor.

ROBERT: Not to mention hosts.

MARVIN: Well, I actually like some of the hosts. But we have this strange celebrity thing, and instead of children being attached to and getting values from the right people, they get it from people who have the gift of pretending to be charismatic. Celebrities are celebrities because they somehow make people trust them. They have to get you to trust them, when they're playing a role.

BART: You can even become president, if you play your cards right.

MARVIN: That particular president was a pretty smart one. He did all of those things.

ROBERT: Before technology, you couldn't have chosen him.

BRUCE: But before technology was your high priest, somebody else was--and I don't know whether we're still in the same frying pan or a different one. You have to be careful not to take a two-to-five-year period and extrapolate it to the past or the future. I grew up at the end of World War II. I was too young to serve, but I was old enough to understand what Buchenwald meant, what Hitler meant--the atom bomb was a real thing to me. You go another generation and all that's gone--that's history in the history books; none of that experience is there. Like my father's experience in the Great Depression--he never got over it; it colored his whole view of things. Vietnam was personally threatening to young people who feared they would get drafted, and it did lead to some intellectual development. Then you have Ronald Reagan saying, "Self-centered consumerism is good." That was the new ethic and it worked, producing the "Now Generation." So, with all these trends going on, we have to be careful when we generalize, because we're all very strongly imprinted by the culture--the things that were going on--when we were thirteen years old.

ROBERT: Frank, as an undergraduate you majored in classics; your doctorate is in political science. Does this give you a different perspective on technology from that of a scientist or engineer?

FRANK: Well, your perspective, in a way, is that the whole technological mindset, and modern natural science, is something that was deliberately chosen by human societies four hundred or five hundred years ago, but it's not the only way of approaching social organization and the pursuit of a good life. Science and technology is the way we've chosen, but it's not a necessary one. I think a lot of people assume that technology has to exist, that technological progress is inevitable and basically a good thing, and they don't go back and examine the premises of this attempt to conquer nature--whether conquering nature is really doable, and whether it will provide the kind of meaning that people think it will.

ROBERT: What about technology's impact cross-culturally? You've compared different cultures--for example, Asian and American.

FRANK: Technology is homogenizing everybody, for better or worse. Technology produces modern economic societies, enhanced production possibilities--that's really what you mean when you say that liberal democracy and markets are the only way to go. For the kind of technological world we live in, where information is critical for technological advancement, you have to have political democracy and decentralized economic decision-making--and there are few cultures that can stand up against that.

ROBERT: Marvin, I'm fascinated by the power that people have. I often go to a Web site created by a person, not a company, because that one person has better insight. How do you see technology empowering people?

MARVIN: We could call it the popular-power paradox, because with this capability of setting up a great Web site, one person can make a huge difference. But then the next thing is, "Well, everybody can make a huge difference," and so they all somehow cancel one another out.

ROBERT: Frank, isn't that the essence of markets, where everything is competing and the best emerge?

FRANK: That's right: the best have to emerge at the end, but you also need filters and some way of picking the winners and allowing them to emerge.

ROBERT: Does education fulfill this role in a high-tech society?

FRANK: That's one of the real transformations that has come about. You cannot survive in a high-tech society without a much more substantial education, and education really changes the way people interact. There's much less regimentation in a university department than in old-style factory, where everyone had less than a high school education. This is a major change.

ROBERT: George, you've pioneered educational transformation.

GEORGE: Yes. The first thing we found out in California and Texas is that forty to sixty percent of today's high school students can't apply for a job that's technology based. Which led us to the conclusion that in the twenty-first century, knowledge that creates understanding will be called "education" and knowledge that creates value will be called "training." It doesn't make any sense to me to force everyone to get a college degree.

BART: We have a high level of scientific illiteracy in this country. There's the notorious poll data showing that over half of American adults don't even know that the earth takes a year to go around the sun.

GEORGE: When is education going to come up with some fresh ideas? There's no good theory in education today--certainly not in K through 12--about how to teach science and mathematics. Or the understanding of technology. Are we to do it with science fiction, which is not taught yet?

BRUCE: That gets into another dimension--critical thinking, critical evaluation. As the amount of stuff that the media bombards us with grows, most of it driven by commercial or political considerations, the need for the individual to be able to filter and assess and make critical comparison also grows. So maybe the word "education" will become obsolete. Training is extremely important, because the jobs are not manual labor anymore--you're not born with the ability to fill those jobs. You have to know how things work, but most important is the ability to think critically about the information you're exposed to.

ROBERT: Bart, regarding critical thinking, what happens to religion in a high-tech society?

BART: Science has often hoped that religion would go away. It certainly hasn't. It's a very adaptive belief system, and I'm sure it will adapt to the times, even when we evolve into different types of information creatures. I think religion will be just as virulent as ever. It tends to be the basis of large conflicts around the world, and as countries splinter into ever finer groups and communicate on the Internet, that [sectarianism] will only increase.

MARVIN: Bruce [Murray] has put his finger on it, because one thing we need in order to understand things well is critical thinking. If somebody tells you something, you ask, "Well, what's the evidence for that?" In most religions, the idea is that, well, there are certain questions we can't decide in any such way, and so it's important to have faith. And if you're very good at having faith, it means you're not very good at critical thinking. Some people seem to be able to tolerate both, but in general I think if people put emphasis on believing a set of rules that come from an authority figure, then we're in terrible danger. Does the structure of the authority you're not allowed to question undermine understanding and progress?

ROBERT: You think faith and critical thinking are mutually exclusive?

MARVIN: I do. Some people say that faith and critical thought are concerned with such different subjects that they're not incompatible. But I don't think so.

FRANK: As offensive as faith-based thought may be to scientists, it seems to me that it's extremely important, and it's not likely to disappear. It's the basis for civil society--

MARVIN: It's not the only basis.

FRANK: It socialized physics [i.e., provided the initial social structure in which physics could develop], it's what creates community, and I think one of the reasons people have returned to religion is precisely that they're lonely, and that religion gives them a way of--

MARVIN: You don't see a downside?

FRANK: Of course there's a downside.

MARVIN: What about the religious wars, and the ethnic divisions, and so forth?

FRANK: We haven't fought any religious wars in the United States in a long time.

BRUCE: During the last thirty to forty years--during the time of this extraordinary technological revolution all over the whole world--the fundamentalist elements in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have all been on the rise. Now why is that?

ROBERT: Isn't that fascinating?

BRUCE: It's fascinating, but it's also significant. That's real information, being fed back by real human societies. And the answer is that there's a need for belief systems and explanations that the populace is not receiving from the technological revolution.

MARVIN: But I think we see some of the needs. One is that people don't know how to think critically.

BRUCE: But critical thinking is not going to help you with death.

MARVIN: Oh, yes it is. Bart [Kosko] said you can learn to live with doubt, and you don't need someone to tell you, "Here's the answer." That's the kind of critical thinking we lack.

BRUCE: But people aren't little automatons with no emotions. When you deal with death, or obviously bad things that have no rational explanation, there has to be a context for real human beings to deal with it.

MARVIN: Well, I disagree. I think death has a rational explanation. If it weren't for religion in the two thousand years during which science didn't develop, we wouldn't have death. We would have longevity. You could live as long as you want. The belief in the afterlife is why we don't live forever. The fundamental paradox is that religion has deprived us of our immortality.

BRUCE: I wish we could settle this question empirically.

MARVIN: I think there will be some big biological advances, and one of them will be longevity. Nobody knows why we die when we do. We live twice as long as the chimpanzees, which are the mammals most similar to us, and they live twice as long as most other mammals. So we've already extended our life spans. It may be that it takes only five or ten genes to make people live a hundred years, two hundred years, four hundred years. Nobody knows. And I'll bet you'll find out pretty soon--within the next century. So, some people who are alive now may live three hundred years.

ROBERT: Marvin, you're working on a new book, The Emotion Machine--I read a little of the first chapter, on love. How do you understand love, perhaps the strongest human emotion, in an increasingly technological age?

MARVIN: Well, people don't like the idea of understanding emotions, because there are all sorts of surprises. That particular chapter starts by describing a person who comes in and says, "I've fallen in love with a wonderful person--incredibly beautiful, unbelievably sensitive! I'd do anything for that person!" And then I translate that emotion and it turns out that all those sentences aren't positive things about the other person but negative things about you. You say "incredible," "unbelievable"--meaning no rational person would believe this. "I'd do anything for that person" means "I've decided that none of my own goals are worthwhile." So then you have to ask, What is the nature of this emotion and how does it work? And it seems to me as though a switch is thrown and you're a different computing machine, you're a different thinking machine, and you're using different resources and ways to represent the world. You're seeing things differently. My picture is that there are a couple of hundred systems in your brain, and for each of one of them you might have five different ways of seeing things, five ways of representing knowledge, and five ways of saying what's good, changing your goals. And emotions are big switches that evolved over five hundred million years.

ROBERT: But do you see something as human as love changing because of technology?

MARVIN: I think that when we understand these things, we might be able to make other kinds of choices. And of course somebody will ask, "Well, what's the right choice?" And I don't know--

ROBERT: I'd be scared if you did.

MARVIN: No, but I like the idea of having more options rather than less. There are all sorts of ways that humankind could end up forever locked in some particular way of looking at things, but none of them seem very good. That's why we need progress and understanding. There must be something better than all the things humans have done so far.

ROBERT: Let's look ahead a hundred years and ask a summary prediction question. What kinds of changes will technology make in human thinking?

GEORGE: I think human thinking is going to make changes in technology.

FRANK: Oh, we'll probably be smarter in a lot of ways. Just as we're taller and healthier and live longer. Technology will directly affect our thinking, getting right into human cognition and emotions.

BART: We'll be smarter because we'll have implanted computers into our brains, and later we'll replace our brains with chips--and then we'll have the irony of thinking fuzzy thoughts in a discrete, digital medium.

ROBERT: That may be "smarter" for you.

BRUCE: I'll give an outrageous answer. I think the term "we" may mean something different, because we are going to be connected in so many ways, to so many other people, both past and present, that the question will have to be answered in a very different way. My guess, not prediction, is that the coming century will be the one in which we transform as a social organism through communication, interactive as well as passive, into a different kind of species.

MARVIN: I think you're all correct. I agree with everybody. But what Bart says is very important. When we learn how parts of our brains work, maybe you could stick in a million little electrodes as a little module--the way you buy memory for your home computer.

ROBERT: But love will still be there?

MARVIN: Ah, love will still be there, but you can decide whom you'll be in love with, instead of letting it decide for you. When you like things, you never know whether you're choosing what you like or some little tiny machine in your head is doing it.

ROBERT: A rather depressing, mechanistic world you propose there.

MARVIN: But now we're just kicked around by things we don't understand.


FEW people get what's really going on here. The change in mental process is nothing less than a shift in worldview. Technology is radically transforming our thinking in at least three new ways: (1) information is freely available, and therefore interdisciplinary ideas and cross-cultural communication are widely accessible; (2) time is compressed, and therefore reflection is condensed and decision-making is compacted; (3) individuals are empowered, and therefore private choice and reach are strengthened and one person can have the presence of an institution. So what kind of new thinking is technology engendering? Notice what happens. With an increasing number of diverse ideas circulating freely and widely, and with people more empowered but with less time to assess value, and with vast communications amplifying opinions, this new thinking is at once creative and innovative, volatile and turbulent. We have to face such complexity to keep closer to truth.

Editor's Comments:

Among the roundtable sessions hosted by Dr. Kuhn, I must confess I found this one the least palatable. Most (though not all) of the panel members share a dangerously deluded "scientific" hubris -- precisely the kind of overconfident mindset Mary Shelley warned against in her cautionary tale, "Frankenstein, The Modern Prometheus." Nevertheless I have included it here as a negative example, for contrast and for reference.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: How Does Technology Transform Thinking?
Illustration(s): Francis Fukuyama, Bart Kosko, Marvin Minsky, Bruce Murray, Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Author(s): Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Affiliation: CLOSER TO TRUTH (CTT)
Publication Date: N/A
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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