The Importance of the Computer.

Part of the problem with stating the importance of the computer is that its importance has been stated so many times that it would seem easy to overstate it. But in fact, I feel that the computer is of much greater significance to our world and our future than many care to realize, and that level of importance will only grow as time goes on. One flaw I see in people’s perception of the computer is their equation to the computer as another invention among the ranks of the automobile or the modern firearm, but this is an oversimplified statement, you see, the computer has gone much farther as a contribution to our society and promises to contribute further with periodic advancements that build upon the technological foundation it put in place. What makes the computer different and so much more important to our society going further than these aforementioned examples is its nature as an invention. Most of what we consider the “most important inventions in history”, inventions like guns, cars, planes, iron lungs, penicillin, and the lot, are alike in their nature of being tools or means of survival, extensions of our physical bodies, tools with practical applications and necessary ones at that, sure, but tools that share the same physical limitations and ceilings of the arms they extend. Take the bicycle for example, a pertinent invention and a crucial technological step in our development as a society through its ability to move us faster, farther, and less effort. The bicycle is the perfect example when clarifying the stark contrast between the computer and the majority of other inventions it is so often erroneously thrown in with, as the bicycle as a concept is almost deceptively simple in the way it serves as the shining example of an extenuation of our physical abilities. At the most basic levels, the bicycle and the computer are quite similar in their natures as extenuations of our abilities, but when you zoom out and look at the much larger picture, the difference between the computer and the bicycle is found in what abilities they extenuate. Steve Jobs called the computer the bicycle of the mind, and this is perhaps the most detailed and simultaneously the most vague explanation of the computer as a concept ever put to words. I think Jobs was right in the fact that the computer is like a bicycle, in its potential to extenuate our mental abilities in the same way a bicycle extenuates our physical abilities, but I feel that even he, in spite of all of his abilities to see things as a part of the bigger picture, may not have seen the true potential and importance of the computer. I would go as far as to say that the only invention, if you could call it that, that holds a candle to the computer is spoken language, but it even that lacks the key characteristic that makes the computer as important as it is. What makes the computer so special isn’t even the presence of something, but the absence of it: a limit. From the transistor level all the way to the top, every aspect of the computer embodies limitless possibility. From a certain point of view, its not even the computer itself that makes it so important, but everything that it enables, all the tiny ways it informs our choices as a society. The computer, as an extension of our minds marks a key evolution for the human race, one on a scale not seen since we stopped roaming as nomadic tribes and settled down as agrarian societies. The computer marks the end of the “survival” phase of the human race, no longer limited by our weak physical abilities, through the computer and everything it enables, we, as a race, have evolved, shedding our past weaknesses stemming from physical limitations, and adopting more powerful tools for the mind. The computer marks a change in focus for humanity, one from surviving to thriving, and in this newest human evolution can be found the true importance of the computer.

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