Older generations will always joke “back in the day, we had to use an actual dictionary”. I even remember in my second grade class we were extensively taught how to use a paper dictionary. From “who could find the word the fastest” or “dictionary treasure hunts”, it seemed that we were preparing for the internet to go out of style. But then by third grade, we were sent to computer lab every Thursdays where we all discovered Facebook and the online dictionary. From its introduction into our lives, the computer had multiple uses from being a dictionary to a social platform.
Looking back, I’m not sure how I wasn’t more amazed. Before, the technologies in my life primarily had one use. The TV showed visual content, the phone was used to call people, and the printer printed papers and occasionally faxed documents. But the computer was created to do an immeasurable amount actions.
The computer’s ability to perform so many actions means it can be used across industries, ideas, and people. Anyone could use this new technology to their benefit. That’s why we may consider computers universal machines because they have the ability to change anything.
In my own view, it’s not just the knowledge and speed that a computer provides, it’s communication. While the phone and fax came first, the computer delivered an immediate exchange of billions of ideas. In “The Medium is the Message”, Mcluhan expresses that the medium itself is neither good or evil, it is what us [humans] do with the medium that is good or evil. So all these ideas circulating around this network of computers are a mix of good and evil ideas. It can be scary to think about all the evil ideas floating around the world, immortalized by the internet.
I’m reminded of Anil Dash’s essay on empowerment through computation. The importance of this sort of basic education, is that people learn the breadth of a computer’s actions. When more people are educated on the power of a computer, we can more wisely harness the power of this medium.