What drive computers to be ever more complex?
Selection force in evolution
More complex/powerful computers better help their users survive (well at least they think so)==>Human users want more features, more computational power.
The short lifecycle of computers, enabled by Moore's Law, makes the competitive exclusion principle particularly applicable: products with better/more features quickly eliminate their competitors.
Then why many other artificats did not get more complex or add more features? For example chairs, clothes.
Computers are unique in their intended function: computing (information processing). They measure the world via sensors, which include human beings, and affect the world via actutors, which also include human beings. While chairs and clothes are limited by their specific intended function, computing as a function is universal and seemingly unbounded: this drives Moore's Law, which in turn allows more computing to be done given the budget, and allows cheaper and better sensors and actutors. Some notes are below:
- Increasingly, it is the input data that drives the growth in computing, both scale and complexity. Need a better personal service? Give it more data about yourself.
- The extreme personal computer: If we can wish, what would it look like? It will have unlimited computational power; it will have access to all human knowledge (like Wattson and Wolfram Alpha). But how much personal knowledge will it have? Does it see what you see, hear what you hear? How will it actuate (or output)? Does it physically stop you from doing a foolish thing? or does it verbally admonish you against it? Or does it simply stimulate your brain properly so that you stop even contemplating doing it? These issues bring us into deep issues about ethics, human identity, and relations.
- A lot of ``computing'' are carried out by human beings. The protocols and standards employed by McDonald's can be viewed as programs. Everyday they are executed by human workers. They are designed in a way that they can be reliably executed without special skills. Related, some of the earliest artitifical intelligence programs were first executed by humans. For example, Logic Theorist, often cited as the first AI program, was actually first executed by humans as actuators.
Computers provide ways to make conventional artifacts more complex.
- First, augment them for functions beyond the original intention: collect data and deliver output for computing. A ``smart'' thermostat like the Nest Learning Thermostat, uses the collected data and compute on them to control the AC unit. A ``smart'' chair can collect information about how the user is sitting. A ``smart'' shirt can similarly collect information about physical activities and postores of the wearing user. They can also deliver simple output, e.g., notification by vibration. Why are some of these ``smart'' devices already commercially viable while others are not yet?
- Second, advertise information about the artifact and establish trust between user and owner. Uber does it with cars; AirBnB does it with rooms. What other artifacts can we computerize in a similar way?. The artifact must be personally owned (therefore timeshare condos do not count here); it must be of utility to the owner for a fraction of time; and for the same of economies, it must be expensive.