Subject: Re: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: "Seth Gordon" <sethg@ropine.com>
Date: 6 Jan 2002 17:21:37 -0000

   > For any sufficiently complex task that I want my computer to perform,
   > there is a gap between What I Want Done and What I Told The Computer
   > To Do.  A new programming language, language extension, or user
   > interface can close the gap for a certain class of problems, but once
   > previously-difficult programming problems become easy, it just gives
   > people more time to work on the previously-unthinkable problems that
   > have become merely difficult.

   Employers have the IDENTICAL problem with employees right now.  Or have
   you never seen someone try to follow instructions and wind up with a
   result that the person giving the instructions didn't want?

   These hypothetical machines have, by assumption, the ability to be
   interfaced with exactly like you would a human employee....

Would it also require at least fifteen years of education and life
experience before it could do useful work for someone else, just like
a human employee?

Would it have motivations and goals that sometimes contradict the
goals of its employer, just like a human employee?  (Not to mention
goals contradicting the goals of the company that is licensing its
software...)

If the economy went *really* downhill, would it be willing to work for
just barely more than the resources necessary to keep it running, just
like a human employee?  (Well, *it* might, but the folks who invested
in its development would be mighty disappointed...)

   It always amazes me that people refuse to accept that there is nothing
   a human can do which is not, in principle, accomplishable by a
   computer.  Certainly many things people do are not feasible with
   current hardware.  But there is no fundamental law or general principle
   that anyone has come up with to demonstrate that a computer cannot
   simulate any aspect of a human's mental processes.

I agree that anything a human can do can, in principle, be
accomplished by a computer.  However, even if we had computer hardware
with the same processing power as a human brain, there are many other
applications that could be written to take advantage of that hardware
(e.g., solving hard problems in computational chemistry, weather
prediction, aeronautical engineering, and financial analysis).
Compared with those applications, a program that *merely* simulated
every aspect of a human brain doesn't seem likely to attract venture
capital.

   Cheers,
   Ben

-- 
"It is sad to think that the first few people on earth needed no books,
movies, games or music to inspire cold-blooded murder. The day that Cain
bashed his brother Abel's brains in, the only motivation he needed was his
own human disposition to violence."  --Marilyn Manson
== Seth Gordon == sethg@ropine.com == http://ropine.com/ == std. disclaimer ==