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Computing “Revolution” of Past Two Decades as a Showy Failure: 2

October 30, 2020 5 comments

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about how almost every technological and scientific achievement we associate with the current era was developed before the personal computing “revolution” of past 20-25 years. We successfully designed and made everything from nuclear submarines, ICBMs, nuclear weapons, modern airliners, modern drugs, interplanetary space probes before this so-called “revolution”. Even more interestingly, the past 20-25 years have been the most stagnant period from the point of useful technological advancement in over 200 years. It is as if these two decades have not produced anything which has actually improved our lives or allowed us to real stuff that was previously considered out of reach.

In this post, I will go into some of the stuff I promised in that post- starting with automobiles. As Scotty Kilmer always likes to remind his audience, Japanese cars from mid- to late- 1990s consistently last for over 400k miles as long as you don’t go out of you way to abuse them. So let me ask you the next logical question- has any of the “computerization” of cars introduced since then made them last longer, significantly safer or somehow “better” for the consumer. I think we all know the answer to that question. Which brings us to next inevitable question- Why do corporations keep doing something that does not result in a better product.. and why does this trend keep getting worse. What is going on?

Why are car companies incorporating circuits in to their engines which make them easier to hack, far more sensitive to damage and often result in a lower quality product that does not last as long. Why do so many of them want to replace very ergonomic physical controls with virtual controls that make using them a far bigger chore than necessary. Why are so many car companies pushing hybrids that have excessively complex, hard to repair and often finicky hardware when they seldom have even a 5% better real-life mileage than their conventional counterparts. Also, curiously, why are some Japanese and Korean corporations far less likely to implement the worst of these costly and dangerous trends than their North American or European counterparts. What explains this difference?

Moving on to housing.. Has the quality of housing or the experience of living in one improved in the past 20-25 years? Have “smart” thermostats or “smart” security systems improved the quality of your indoor environment or security? Has having “Alexa” or its Google equivalent in you home improved the quality of your life apart from showing others that you are “hip” and “with it”. Also, what sort of idiot wants to pay corporations and the government to constantly spy on them in their own home? Have “smart” bulbs or LEDs really improved the quality of lighting in your house or substantially affected your electricity bill. Why do all the “smart” refrigerators, washing machines, coffee makers and other appliances fail much sooner, in addition to being unrepairable and more expensive, than their “dumb” analog counterparts .

Let us talk about education- both K12 and university. Has the extensive use of computers in education improved the quality of learning or made it less expensive. Are 2020 graduates somehow better than their counterparts from two decades ago? A large increase in use of computers for education has not improved its quality or made it less expensive. But if it hasn’t made education better, why is there still a continued push to increase the level of computer use in education. If something does not make the situation better, why keep pushing for more of it. And this phenomena goes far beyond automobiles, household alliances and education.

Consider the supposedly indispensable role of modern computing in running corporations. Did you know that large and multi-national corporations existed for decades before electronic computers of any sort existed. Did you also know that corporations of all sizes were able to run their supply chains, manage production, develop innovative products and pay employees and creditors on time before the first electronic computer of any sort was assembled. How did they do that? How did USA, USSR and Nazi Germany produce all the weapons and vehicles necessary for WW2 without possessing modern computers for running logistics or access to Excel tables and PowerPoint presentations? How did Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, GE, Motorola, IBM and many other corporations become big without access to CRM software.

How did large oil refineries run in the era before electronic computers? What about machine tooling? How did they build big stuff such as nuclear submarines, supersonic fighters and bombers, aircraft carriers or make millions of rifles, submachine guns, semi-auto handguns, assault rifles, artillery pieces in the pre-computer era. What about nationwide electrical grids, highway systems, railway networks etc? How come they ran just fine before era of electronic computers, let alone the computing “revolution”. Why didn’t the lack of electronic computers stop people from designing or building large dams, hydroelectric projects, irrigation products, coal-powered stations or electric grids. It is as if the lack of even older electronic computers has little to no effect on the ability of human beings to get things done in a way compatible with maintaining a modern lifestyle.

Since we are, once again, close to a thousand words, I will now wrap up this post. In the next part, I will write more about how the so-called computational “revolution” has not improved the process of drug development, everyday financial transactions and popular entertainment.

What do you think? Comments?