Ordinary Extraordinary Things

There’s a widely accepted principle about technology adoption. When a new technology is introduced, people are aware of it and   learn how to use it. After a while, people come to embody the practices of using it well and are no longer aware of it. It is just part of our world. We no longer notice how we ever lived without it. Some say this principle is characteristic of the computer age. However, this did not originate with computers. It has always been the case with revolutions in daily life. Those who see the revolution taking place are unlikely ever to forget it. Those who see only the effects of the revolution often don’t fully recognize and appreciate it. I call examples of this phenomenon “extraordinary ordinary things.” For me, the most undervalued extraordinary ordinary thing is the elevator. Continue reading

Is Computing in Reverse the Next Big Thing?

As Moore’s Law runs out of steam, and fabrication of Boolean circuits on silicon appears to be reaching its limits, some computer scientists and physicists are looking beyond the limits of current computing to “reversible computing.” That is, instead of one-way circuits that produce a deterministic output from given inputs, reversible computing works both ways: Inputs can be obtained from outputs by running the circuits in reverse. Generally speaking, computation runs in one direction, producing outputs from inputs, without the ability to run backwards and compute inputs from outputs. Continue reading

How to Deal with Post-truthism

The Oxford Dictionaries proclaimed “post-truth” as its 2016 word of the year. It defines post-truth as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” According to the editors, use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, largely in relation to Brexit—the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union—and the United States presidential election. Continue reading