After Hours

Computer philosophy 1-0-1-0

In this guest post by TR member TobiF, he compiled together a few computer-related aphorisms that were shared by the TR community in a philosophical discussion thread.
This post was written by TechRepublic member TobiF.

A while ago, a bunch of TR members scratched their heads and stretched their minds towards the existential and philosophical side of computing. As a result, we came up with quite a few computer-related aphorisms. Here’s the result.

I hope the title doesn’t scare you too much. In order to make this whole thing easier for a computer to grasp, I’ll use binary numbers. The binary number 1010 is the same as hexadecimal 0xA – or in daily talk, 10. Let’s get started.

0001: You say you don't understand computers, but do the computers understand you?

According to one of my theories, even though you think computers are complicated, you do more than a computer does, because computers:

  • don’t think
  • don’t know anything
  • don’t understand anything

Computers just do. They follow instructions. When a computer follows instructions written by a really smart guy, then we may get an illusion believe that the computer is smart.

0010: Computers are the quickest idiots on earth...

Any CEO will confirm that idiots can be very useful or even essential. Especially if the idiots are good at following instructions, do things very fast, and have a large memory.

0011: Computers are only as smart as the person who runs them; That being said, they are often stupid.

Here, NexS reminds us not to blame the computer if it can’t construe instructions with unexpected syntax or if the instructions don’t align with your expectations.

0100: Computers are stupid, they only do what you tell them.

I’m so glad PurpleSkys said this about computers, and not about men. But she's got a point. Especially women are good at figuring out what you really want, even if you don't know it yourself.

0101: Computers are stupid, they can only count to one.

In reply to point 0100, Darryl reminded us about how basal the computers knowledge is. The computers multiplication table can be learned in 3 minutes:

0*0=0;

0*1=0;

1*0=0;

1*1=1

Adding is actually more complicated:

0+0=0;

0+1=1;

1+0=1;

1+1=(1)0

The parenthesis in the last line means that the result is 0, but you also need to carry over "1" to the next level.

0110: There's no place like /home. (NT)

This entry from seanferd really caught me. Yes, I agree totally with the initial statement. But I tried hard to understand, why he added this (NT) at the end. Could he be talking about Windows NT? Probably not, as opposed to UNIX and some other systems, NT uses $HOMEPATH$, instead.

Or was he referring to the “New Testament”? The Book of Proverbs belongs to the Old Testament, whereas this kind of proverb can't be found anywhere in a traditional bible. Thus NNT, might have been more correct.

By the way, in these days, when you look around, it can be hard to tell whether you really are at /home, or just in a cloned copy.

(I think I figured it out. “NT” means that there's no (meaningful) text in the post, except for the title itself.)

0111: Memory doesn't have any speed. The marking is just a declaration of the speed this memory should be able to handle...

This one is really philosophical. RAM and even processors don’t have any speed in themselves. They only have latency. If you clock them so high that you try to use output before it has stabilized, then in the best case, you'll get garbage output. In the worst case, your computer will turn into garbage.

1000: More's law

For each year, you will need MORE processors, memory, and connectivity to do the same tasks as before! We have heard so much about the famous Moore’s law. I think we need one more law about the continuous expansion. Let’s see if it will stay true, as well.

1001: Haiku:

Chaos? Composure!

PCs are mere silicon;

sand through your fingers.

/neilb@...

1010 The question of whether computers can think is just like the question of whether submarines can swim.

NexS helped us to find this statement by Edsger W. Dijkstra (1930--2002), Dutch computer scientist. It’s a deep one. I won’t tell you how to understand it. Just a warning: While elaborating on this statement, don’t put your laptop into your tub!

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

39 comments
not4shore
not4shore

I am just taking a wild guess, a computer is an extention of the person using it?

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

Awesome post Tobi...I loved it...and thanks for the honourable mention ;)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

do what you tell them to do, not what you want them to do. To paraphrase Einstein: Every day, mankind is making ever faster, better, more idiot-proof computers, and every day, nature is creating faster, better, idiots. So far, nature is winning. Man has always made mistakes. The computer makes possible the creation of more mistakes in less time. A corollary For 0111: No matter how fast your computer is, at some point you will complain that it is too slow. (Sounds like something Seymour Cray might have said...)

ardavidson
ardavidson

Actually, item 1010 is in error. The question of whether computers can think is similar to the question of whether submarines can fly. They can be trained to simulate certain behaviors, but currently there is no thought, no feeling to them.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Let's see more of these posts.

sboverie
sboverie

A computer does not have initiative unless it gets a an embedded command from a bot net; in which case it happily wrecks itself after passing on that initiative to other computers. (Need to work on the wording.)

maj37
maj37

Jenkins Law: Computer resource utilization expands as necessary to consume all available computer resource.

randytyler
randytyler

There are 10 kinds of people; those who understand binary, and those who don't.

dean.h
dean.h

to err is human, to really screw up, takes a computer.

seanferd
seanferd

Are most of these from Weekend Aphorisms? I recognize a few... NT? From the New Testament. I'm awful at citing exact passages, but it's the bit right after the Lord says, "Peter, I can see your house from here", then Dorothy says, "There's no place like home". Also, there's no place like 127.0.0.1. edit: OK, I managed to miss the link to Weekend Aphorisms right at the beginning of the article. D'oh!

TobiF
TobiF

What didn't make it into this post and should be covered next time? I just realized that we didn't mention that brilliant definition of 'recursion': Recursion If you still don't get it, see "Recursion".

NexS
NexS

They're beautiful, Nick. But i think Einstein's quote was the best (though it took me a while to decide!). Not only is it amusing from a support perspective, it's not untrue.

TobiF
TobiF

A computer merely follows orders. Just make sure you're the one calling them!

jamie.connolly
jamie.connolly

There are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary, and those who don't. and those that are aware of counting in base 3 and those that are aware of counting in base 4 ad absurdum...

TobiF
TobiF

Just a smiley: :)

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

like to hang it where I'm working! Had it since about 1982! Computers also come in handy as the catch-all for any problems..."I'm having computer problems, so it may take a while to file this report".

jwmiller
jwmiller

Always been one of my favorites.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

What a brainfart... I was trying to press something, and then I accidentally marked as spam!!! Go ahead and pelt me with rotten fruit! AUGH! Sorry. *slaps self upside head*

hineses@hotmail.com
hineses@hotmail.com

Dang computers, they don't do what you want them to do, just what you tell them to do.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Lightheartedness; welcome lightheartedness made its way into the post this time. I enjoyed it, Tobi. Thank you.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Well actually at the end of the Title text? :^0 NT defiantly means [b]New technology[/b] after all M$ coined it to what other possible meaning could it have? Probably much more importantly why does [b]Hand-BAG[/b] get asserted out by the TR Filters when you don't use the Hyphen or mixed case. Or was the word handbags, I'm confused now. :D Currently the White Mice are refusing to answer that question for me. :( With a bit of luck [b]Shoes[/b] will be added tot he list and we'll stop hearing the females caring on about them. ;) Col

maj37
maj37

I have had a little sandwich board on my desk since the early 90's that says that. I however added a word to the end it now reads. To err is human to really foul things up requires a computer user! maj

TobiF
TobiF

We'll just hope Tammy will be alert enough, despite he having birthday and everything!

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I used to kid, back when I was still programming (dBase IV and COBOL) that we had obviously forgotten to insert the assume clause into the program so you we get the results you actually wanted, not the ones you ended up asking for.

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

The best thing about a computer is that it does exactly what you tell it to do. The worst thing about a computer is that it does exactly what you tell it to do.

maj37
maj37

I used to tell my students that when I taught an intro to computers class at our local communitiy college. maj

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

It's already shoesho started! You just had to go and poke tammikins, huh? You eshoesho!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

the censoring "*" turned into, cycling in turn "s", "h", "o" and "e".

TobiF
TobiF

before I'm ready for work. :) (Especially in the beginning of a new week)

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

My operating system by itself doesn't do anything. The computer has a 3Gb/s processor and takes 3 1/2 minutes to start up. So I figure that is 630 * 10^9 clock cycles to get nowhere.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

We don't have any Folding Money smaller than $5.00 Notes and they are plastic. We do have $1.00 & $2.00 coins and they very quickly mount up in your pocket. Recently [b]SWMBO[/b] emptied her purse complaining that she didn't have any money and found $185.00 in coins. Of course it didn't stop her asking for more well actually [b]Demanding MORE.[/b] :D But here M$ or at least from the work I have done in the past which was medical you never refer to Microsoft as MS as you get lots of nasty calls from Doctors wanting to know if the Computer Infection Multiple Sclerosis is as bad for a computer as it is for Humans and what they have to do to get rid of it. Well actually they want to know if they can get any of their Data off the Infected Computer or if the whole lot has to be destroyed. We where using M$ to denote Microsoft long before the Anti Microsoft people started using it to imply whatever it is that they are trying to get across. :0 I just love it when some have a go at me for using M$ as they try to put something that is not intended and I just tell them to ask any member of the Public what MS is. 99% will tell you it's a Incurable Disease and will not think of Microsoft. But the same people when asked what M$ means will know exactly that it is Shorthand for Microsoft. As Multiple Sclerosis was a recognized Disease and known by most people as MS for short long before the company Microsoft was formed, I personally find it offensive when people refer to Microsoft as MS. :p OH and [b]Attention Taminkins[/b] there is about to be an [i][u]Obscenity[/u][/i] used here and you should add it to the TR Filters to prevent others seeing this horrible word and being offended. Shoes, [b]SHOES,[/b] [i]Shoes.[/i] [u]Shoes.[/u] Col 0:-)

TobiF
TobiF

If Microsoft "coins" something, then, of course, you refer to them as M$ :) I've heard that there are one dollar coins, although this denomination is usually represented by a piece of paper. I'w working on the definition of EOM. At first, I simply thought it was a typo, and our peers were asserting the long-time values, and therefore wanted to say EON, but statistical evidence forced me to widen my search to alternative propositions. Shortlisted are the following: Except Other Meanings, Even Other Mice, Error On Me, Efficient Order Manual ("End Of Message" was eliminated in the first round, since it's too trivial.) I don't know much about TR's filters, but they should, obviously, be updated regularly whenever needed, just like my spam-filter (POPfile), which is always happy to learn a couple of new words. So, if you post 10 spammy posts about products from Manolo Blahnik, then, maybe, shoes will go the same way as Louis Vuitton. :)

TobiF
TobiF

Finnish is really a blessed language when it comes to 3rd person pronouns.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

The dumb terminal says "It is now safe to turn off your computer" The smart terminal says "To safely turn off your computer, read the instructions posted on the airlock door" ;)

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

they don't like being called dumb... first my computer tricked me into pressing the wrong button, and now yours made you appear to write "he" of Tammy!!!

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

If my computer did what I tell to, It would have been in h**l a long time ago.

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