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Jim Morris's Thought of the Week (or month, or year, ...)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Can Computers Be Culpable?

If they can’t, it will impede their use in many applications.

While I’m confident that all the cognitive functions of my administrative assistant will be able to be duplicated someday, there are some functions, like taking the blame for missed appointments or “fudging” about my whereabouts, that can’t be duplicated. If I tell you that my electronic calendar forgot the appointment, you will tell me it’s my fault. On the other hand, you won’t criticize my assistant.

If you want to push the limits in getting inexpensive airfares, human travel agents are important. Even if you can get all the information about available deals, you would rather not consciously cheat the airlines by flying on a ticket for which you’re not quite eligible. For example, some travel agents book people on “group tours” in which the group is one person.

Some tax preparers can skirt the law on your behalf. A preparer might say “Don’t tell me what your business expenses were - I’ll estimate them,” and then put in the largest number experience proved would not trigger suspicion. Turbotax wouldn’t dare do this.

Taking the rap is a function computers haven’t been able to do.

posted by Jim Morris @ 9:50 AM  0 comments

Monday, November 06, 2006

The US Needs a Sputnik

The figures for students entering computer science are dismal. There are fewer CS students now than in 1980! At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects huge job growth in the computing sector in the next 30 years. US science students prefer biology, where many fewer jobs will exist in this same period of time.

If this situation continues, all those computer jobs will be filled by others, and the US will become a nation of lawyers, plumbers, and hairdressers.

Sputnik allowed Eisenhower to create ARPA which created computer science and all that followed from it. The palpable threat from Japan’s semiconductor industry in the 1980s created Sematech and the Semiconductor Research Council, which sustained the US lead in semiconductors.

Unfortunately, the erosion of computer science in the US and its rapid growth in Asia is not palpable. Companies can offshore the work, and the defense sector doesn’t appear to be concerned. Foreign hackers defacing DoD web sites is just not as frightening as Sputnik was. Can anybody think of an event that would get the President’s attention?

posted by Jim Morris @ 10:56 AM  1 comments

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