Claude Shannon worked with signal to noise ratio. How does one cut out the noise/ interference and only get a good signal the “information” that we want? Shannon solves the signal to noise ratio problem by breaking the information into manageable pieces, by breaking the information down you receive less noise with the signal. Claude Shannon used Boolean algebra to translate logic into formula.After completing his PhD. from MIT he goes to work at Bell Labs where he meets, British mathematician, Alan Turing. During Shannon’s time at Bell Labs he writes, ” A Mathematical Theory of Communication” this explains how to best encode the information. Shannon is only concerned with the information not the meaning. In order to transmit the information efficiently with the least amount of disruption and noise you must get rid of the meaning. Later, Shannon and Harry Nyquist came up with the Nyquist- Shannon Sampling theory, allowing analog music to become digital music. You only need 2 pieces of information to recreate a sound wave. Music was turned in to numbers to a frequency then back to music.
Alan Turing is well known for decrypting Nazi codes and his work with machine intelligence. Turing developed the “Turing test” in order to tell if a machine is intelligent. He believed if a human could not tell that it was a machine or a human it would need to be considered intelligent. In opposition to this school of thought is John Searle. Searle believed that to be intelligent you must understand what you are doing, you must have intention. While Turing argues Searle point is moot because we only assume other’s intention but there is no way to know because we only know the outward self. Can you be intelligent with out intention? What if you make some great intelligent mathematical discovery by complete accident? If there is no intent are you still intelligent?
Max Weber a German sociologist believed the most crucial information management was record keeping and centralization. After the Civil War the US was paying more than 2 million pensions, none of the individuals had identification other than a birth certificate, there was no centralization, or even typewriters to assist in record keeping. How could the US government realistically keep track of what was getting paid and to whom? How to verify whether a person was who they say they were? After the Civil War, Montegomery Miegs was put in charge of the Pension division, where he commissioned a new building, “The National Building Museum”, to house the workers he would need to hire to streamline the system.
Prior to WWII the US Army would reduce in size after war, because of the thought “standing armies are dangerous”. The shift however after WWII is that a standing army should be a permanent fixture in the US. President Eisenhower in his farewell speech recognized the changing military landscape. Besides military personnel and weaponery, large expenditures were made towards “computing”.Many technological advances stem from war. During the 1950’s analog computers were used to calculate missile trajectories. The analog computers needed 7-8 men to operate and feed it information. These computers were used to help fight global communism.
In the 1930’s Vannevar Bush created a differential analyzer, an analog computer. During the war it was used non-stop in the MIT Radiation lab (http://museum.mit.edu/150/22). Vannever Bush theorized that men need a device to store and categorize their books, personal papers, and records that can be accessed with expediency, he named it the “memex”. The “memex” would help supplement a man’s memory and allow him to better use the information at his disposal. Unlike Carr, Bush believed the memory worked by creating networks and associations, in a non-linear fashion. Bush wondered why if there was a “better option” for people to use why would they not use it? Bush was fortunate to live in a changing age, analog computers to the “electronics revolution”.
The invention of ENIAC one of the first electrical computers was contained in multiple rooms it was so large. It operated using a thermionic/ vacuum tubes. The downside to these tubes were their size, fragility, power requirements and the heat generated. During their time these were magnificent machines that took up large amounts of space but nowadays computers that fit in our bags and on our tabletops are more powerful.
What facilitated this post war change? Was it the realization a country needed a standing army to advance technology to helpfacilitate safety? Was it purely to prevent the global spread of communism?
In Carr’s book “The Shallows” he lays out what he believes the internet is doing to our brains. Carr makes the argument that the way we process information from the internet is rewiring our brains to gather information in bits and pieces in a distracted way. He seems to feel reading books creates a deep thinker, a person able to concentrate. It is a linear process with no outside distractions. Carr believes that the “erosion of the public self” was due to the inability to pay attention. While reading on the internet we are bombarded by tiny distractions that cause us/our brains to go off on side tangents, searching for more and more information. Carr might be on to something the internet can certainly cause distractions. How does this impact us other than the way in which we process information? The information we are now so hungry for can be false. How does this change our views of society and social interaction? There is no need to go interact with the librarian at your local library, research can be done with the touch of a button. These things can be good and bad. You do not necessarily know the quality of information you are gathering from the internet and while it is convenient it also cuts down on social interaction among other causing isolation. You then have the opposite spectrum people putting all sorts of information about themselves on line, I will call this the Kardashian problem.
Carr’s argument is not the first time that someone has wondered about how access to information affects us. Socrates made the argument against literacy. Seems absurd, you can gain so much knowledge by reading, right? Socrates’ argument is based on the premise that you should make your own observations, through social interactions, and shared learning experiences. If you rely on the knowledge of others through literacy, it could be inferior to what you yourself could learn. Socrates has a valid point someone else’s knowledge compared to your knowledge could be inferior to yours. Each person see’s things from their own perspective, no two people will have the same experience, if you are able to experience something it is probably best to have first hand knowledge.
Plato on the other hand makes the argument for literacy. While Socrates had a valid point about learning through observation and social interaction, Plato’s argument for literacy has some good points. One being you can pass down information that might otherwise have been lost. Not everybody will be able have all life experiences especially back in those days, travel was more arduous, it was a different world. You could explore other things though through literacy, you may not be able to travel to China but you could read about. Sometimes when secondhand knowledge is the best you have, it is better than nothing.
I think the key to these views lies in balance.
The class for History of Technology was very interesting. Definitely, not what I expected. I was expecting a boring run of the mill history of technology, more along the lines of computers Steve Jobs etc. Instead we listened to Tito Puente known for his Latin Jazz music style. We discussed “dynamic range” how producers make songs louder in order to be heard better. The advent of the vinyl record changed the experience of music listening. Music used to be a public event one would go to a bar, pub, speak-easy, or church to hear music, now you could listen in the privacy of your own home. The way in which Vinyl records work. The wider the groove the louder the sound will be. The problem with this however is that a record is only so big and can only produce a certain amount of loudness. According to psycho acoustics louder is better.
Vinyl records also offer better dynamic range than compressed CD’s or mp3s. Compression is the act of leveling out the dynamic range. Cd’s and mp3s are highly compressed to save space. Compression makes it a mindless listening experience, where if you are listening to live music or Vinyl records the dynamic range makes it more involved, you have to listen for the softer parts because it is not all at the same sound level.
The invention of the microphone created an artificial intimacy. You no longer needed to sing loudly in order to be heard. You could draw people in even if you had a soft voice, like Frank Sinatra.