Smplexity
Posted: 11 April 2013 08:48 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I am reading “Simplexity,” the 2008 book by J. Kluger. He writes:
“Electronic devices ... have gone mad. It is not just your TV or your camera or your twenty-seven-button cell phone with its twenty-one different screen menus and its 124-page instruction manual. ... The act of buying nearly any electronic product has gone from the straightforward plug-and-play experience it used to be to a laborious, joy-killing experience in unpacking, reading, puzzling out, configuring, testing, cursing, reconfiguring, stopping altogether to call the customer support line, then calling again an hour or two later, until you finally get whatever it is you’ve bought operating in some tentative configuration that more or less does all the things you want it to do—at least until some error message causes the whole precarious assembly to crash and you have to start it all over again. ... “

After elaborating on this topic (for several pages), the author concludes that “there’s necessarily complex and then there’s absurdly complex.”

What he does not analyze, at least in the chapter I am reading, is the effect all this may have on the minds of our push-button youngsters. Push-button experience is very different from building radios, repairing grandfather clocks, tractors, cars, etc. Will the overall effect be positive or negative?  What do you think?

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Ludwik Kowalski (see Wikipedia), a retired nuclear physicist from New Jersey, USA. A am also the author of a FREE ONLINE book: “Diary of a Former Communist: Thoughts, Feelings, Reality.”

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It is an autobiography based on a diary kept between 1946 and 2004 (in the USSR, Poland, France and the USA).

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Posted: 12 April 2013 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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First of all I don’t entirely agree with the premise. It depends on the comparison you’re making. Compared to a stone tablet your 1930’s typewriter was harder to learn how to use. As you add functionality of course you will need to spend a little more time learning how to use a device, but consider this. The 27 button phone we are referring to is not just a phone. Its many devices crammed into one device. Yes its a phone and a very easy to use phone if you just use it for that, but its not just a phone. Its also an electronic rolodex,  an answering machine, a compass, a GPS device, a scientific calculator, a flashlight, a music player, and a full function computer.  Despite all of this some devices have gotten much easier to use. I remember what it was like to use a PC from the 1980’s ( do you remember DOS?). compare that to the experience of using the far more capable and powerful 2010 iPad. This tablet is a computer you can hold in your hand that a 2 year old can learn how to use without any instructions.

As far as the affect on children I think its apples and oranges to compare the experience of a 1950’s child and a 2010’s kid. I often took things apart as a kid to learn how they worked but I was the minority. Most kids never did that stuff. I wouldnt be surprised if a similar proportion of todays kids are now taking apart computers and building them from scratch. Add that to the number of kids learning to program and hack devices and I would guess that the effect on creativity and learning is a positive one especially when you consider the ability of computers to draw in kids who would not usually be attracted to tech at all.

I haven’t read the book but I find a lot of people taking a nostalgic look at the past often consider only their experience and only the positives. They don’t really consider the big picture and tend to forget what reality was really like.

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Posted: 12 April 2013 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree with Macgyver that there are relatively few “tinkerers”, in any technological era.

Ludwik Kowalski - 11 April 2013 08:48 PM

What he does not analyze, at least in the chapter I am reading, is the effect all this may have on the minds of our push-button youngsters. Push-button experience is very different from building radios, repairing grandfather clocks, tractors, cars, etc. Will the overall effect be positive or negative?  What do you think?

The rise in obesity in kids, is one of the most negative effects of the push button culture, IMO.

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Posted: 12 April 2013 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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What the author is forgetting is that you have a choice these days. You can buy a smart TV and spend days, if not months, trying to figure out all the features, or you can get Apple TV instead, plug it in, and set it up in a couple of minutes. I have never seen anything easier than setting up any Apple product. Also, let’s not forget that if there wasn’t market for making things complicated, they wouldn’t do it. I know many people (all men) who like their electronics as complicated as possible. It’s their way of being able to send out the conspicuous signal to others.

[ Edited: 13 April 2013 05:59 AM by George ]
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Posted: 12 April 2013 09:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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As one of those people who soldered together his first computer I must agree to a significant extent.

Software does not have to be logical in the sense of what happens in relation to what is done on the user interface.  It becomes a matter of arbitrary memorization.  If you do this then that happens.  I you do this other thing then something else happens, but there does not have to be a LOGICAL connection.  Things must make sense at the electronic and mechanical level or they don’t work, but software can be totally arbitrary abstractions created by the programmers.

These screen interfaces that look like 3D cubes that can be rotated with a finger to any surface to make multiple selections on the surface.  It is about looking really cool.  But multimillion dollar mainframes did not have the processing power to do that in the 80s.  But this society can’t even recommend good free books for kids to read off the Internet.

How many kids with smartphones can’t explain what an electron is?

IBM didn’t explain to us how a von Neumann machine worked but we were supposed to fix computers.  It was all about following MAPs.

http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/system34/fe/SY31-0457-5_System_34_5340_System_Unit_Maintenance_Manual_Jan81.pdf

It produces people who can do things within a certain limited range but do not understand things.  People trapped within a system that they must maintain for their own survival because they cannot function without it.

This is how they work:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dg96tefnEU

Are we becoming electronic cogs instead of mechanical cogs?  Even more helpless because the electronics cannot be seen.

psik

[ Edited: 12 April 2013 09:25 AM by psikeyhackr ]
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Posted: 12 April 2013 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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psikeyhackr - 12 April 2013 09:19 AM

How many kids with smartphones can’t explain what an electron is?

How many kids with a printed book can’t explain what is water/ink balance of offset printing?

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Posted: 12 April 2013 10:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I agree with George. I don’t think kids are any less curious about how things work than they were in the past in fact if anything I think the opposite is true. Its all a matter of where you want to put your resources as a kid. In the 50’s kids who were curious ( and again it was a small minority) focused on the hardware because thats all there was ( radios, TV’s Bicycles). Today there is a lot more to know so kids direct their curiosity and creativity to the things that interest them whether its the software, the hardware ,the gaming, video, photography or any of the other areas that have been opened up for them with new technology. Sure there are lots of kids who couldn’t care less about how things work mindlessly texting with their new technology, but they are most likely the same groups who mindlessly danced to the radio in the 50’s and 60’s without ever a thought in their head to open it up and see how it pumped out those tunes.

I think if you really looked at the entirety of the teenage population you would find that technology has made kids more creative and curious not less. You can’t just look at the kids who are taking apart the physical items you need to include those who are dissecting and exploring the more abstract and non-physical that were not available to earlier generations too.

I think its natural to lament the passing of a time when we could all take something apart and understand its inner workings but if that was our benchmark we would all be living in cave with a heel as our greatest technology

[ Edited: 12 April 2013 10:11 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 12 April 2013 10:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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One of the major complaints is from older adults.  Have you noticed how many of your friends over the age of fifty make comments similar to “This damned {computer type item} was driving me crazy so I had to have my son or grandson show me how to use it.”?  smile

Occam

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Posted: 12 April 2013 10:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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George - 12 April 2013 09:24 AM
psikeyhackr - 12 April 2013 09:19 AM

How many kids with smartphones can’t explain what an electron is?

How many kids with a printed book can’t explain what is water/ink balance of offset printing?

And is that information fundamental to the structure of the universe?

How many solar systems contain no printing presses and how many have no electrons?

Oh yeah, we can’t go out and count YET.

psik

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Posted: 12 April 2013 11:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Occam. - 12 April 2013 10:20 AM

One of the major complaints is from older adults.  Have you noticed how many of your friends over the age of fifty make comments similar to “This damned {computer type item} was driving me crazy so I had to have my son or grandson show me how to use it.”?  smile

Occam

LOL, Very true Occam but I think this is something every generation has dealt with. Its just that its all coming a little quicker now because of the rapid pace of innovation. I remember having to play around with my grandparents “new fangled” color TV when i was a teenager to get rid of all the green faces because they couldn’t figure out how to adjust the colors properly. Now its a Computer, or a TiVO box, or an iPad instead of the TV. Same idea just different devices. Someday I’m sure I will have to ask some uppity 2 year old to show me how to use the food replicator so I don’t end up with a cup of frogs legs instead of my morning oatmeal. We all get there eventually

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Posted: 13 April 2013 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I just but a new remote control for an Apple TV and it took me about ten minutes to figure out how to get it out of the cute, little, plastic box.  hmmm

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Posted: 14 April 2013 01:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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George - 13 April 2013 05:45 PM

I just but a new remote control for an Apple TV and it took me about ten minutes to figure out how to get it out of the cute, little, plastic box.  hmmm

That was a test! grin

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Posted: 14 April 2013 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Okay, Lois.  grin Although it seemed more like a sight test than on IQ test. The box has a little arrow on the bottom, no bigger than five points in size. Once I put on reading glasses it became much easier to figure out. Cute as hell, but very impractical. But I forgive them.

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Posted: 14 April 2013 05:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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And I can’t believe I spelled “bought” as “but.” What a douche…

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