Re: reflecting on technology...

Dale R. Reed (
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 12:06:04 -0700

Robin Martin wrote:
> As part of a class that I'm taking as well as my own
> interest, have been doing some critical reflecting about
> the Internet and technology in general, and our uses of it,
> especially in education,<snip> If these questions seem
> perplexing to you, I invite you to read it:

> <snip>

Robin I particularly identify with your paper's ending.

Empowerment to me begins with freedom, and as long
as we see freedom coming from our technology and our
artifacts, rather than from within ourselves, we will
be slaves to our technology and the system at large.
Once we begin to challenge ourselves and ways of
thinking and see ourselves as the powerful creators
who we are (not just creators of our artifacts, but
creators of our reality), then and only then will
technology become a service to our humanity.

I used to have a sign over my desk at work that said:


And what I meant by that was to first assume that you have free will and
then to exercise it. Do something that a hundred modelers on a hundred
of the most powerful computers in hundred years might not predict you
would do next. Surprise everyone. Really surprise them. Surprise

As you know Robin I am learning how to program with LOGO the
"children's" programming code that is being used to help children all
over the world to learn to think. And hopefully at least one Bear of
Very Little Brain.

A child adept at constructing his or her own computer worlds with LOGO
would smile and say to me:

Ha! Ha! Dale, even a robot with its computer brain can surprise you.
Watch me as I write a program that causes the LOGO turtle to act
unpredictably. I will use the "random" primitive and the turtle might
go anywhere. Even off the screen so we cannot see it anymore.
Actually after a few random zings here or there I would begin to expect
it to be unpredictable and hence the turtle has become predictably
unpredictable. Hence you will have to be more than unpredictable to do
something a robot cannot do.

And I would say to the little child, yes you can program
unpredictability into a robot but can a robot program you if you do not
want it to? Are you more than your past life and your present

In other words each human has, as Ayn Rand said, a self made soul. That
can withstand the most terrible punishments. Even women have spent
years being tortured in the most awful prisons leaving stronger than
they entered.

Each human starts out as a blank slate without even any animal
instincts. And no matter what their environments may chose at anytime
in their lives to continue or begin enjoying a happy prosperous life.
Or they can at anytime decide to be a victim of their past and present
circumstances. Humans can chose to think or not to think. Humans can
chose to have a trip or an adventure.

Robots only do what they have been programmed to do. That is the best
one can expect from a robot.

Robin, I think you said it best in the second to last paragraph of your
paper. Dale

As educators in the 21st century, can we begin to pave
ways for youth and adults alike to feel empowered to take
control of life and their real relationshipswith people, with
nature, with technologyso that real life becomes as exciting as
virtual life? Robin Martin

$   Seattle, Washington U.S.A.  $