By Servando Gonzalez
Author of The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol and
The Nuclear deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis
"Guns they’ll never find,
‘cuz my lethal weapon’s my mind." Ice-T
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According to Moore's Law, enunciated in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, the power of computer processing doubles every 18 months. Based on this assertion, which has proved to be extremely accurate, some scholars believe that computers will reach the point where they will be more intelligent than humans in about twenty years, give or take a couple of years.
Professor Hans Moravec, an eminent roboticist at Carnegie Mellon University is not that optimistic. He believes that it will take a little longer for computers to be more intelligent than humans in all areas of life, from running efficient businesses to writing surrealist poetry. In his latest book, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendent Mind (Oxford University press, 1999), Moravec predicts that robots will be that advanced by 2040.
With all respect to the experts, however, I have to disagree. Actually, computers will become more intelligent than humans in about ten years. But not thanks to Moore's Law, but because of a less known one: Servando's Law.
According to Servando's Law, since the emergence of widespread computer use, the level of human stupidity in the United States has been doubling every 9 months. Therefore, in about ten years Americans will be so stupid that any computer, even a PC running Windows, will be more intelligent than any human living in this country.
Three main things characterize computers: First, they are stupid, second, they are literal, and, third, they are fast. The fact that computers are stupid is so obvious that it doesn't deserve any serious analysis at all. A computer is a sort of idiot savant, just a box full of incoherent, dead parts, which need to be put to life through something called a computer program. Without a program, a computer is nothing more than an expensive paperweight; a cranium without a brain.
The fact that they are literal is mostly ignored by the public at large, though any computer programmer can testify that it is a lot easier to litter-train your cat than making a computer perform a task a thousand times simpler. Tell your dog to do something, and he will do it, then stop and wait for your next order. Tell a computer through a computer program to "do something," forgetting to add a line of code instructing the computer to "stop doing something" at the end of the code, and the stupid machine either will crash or fall into an endless loop, repeating the same action over and over forever.
But computers are fast. In fact they are extremely fast. The latest desktop models can be a million times faster than a human brain. That's why, like people endowed with an eidetic or photographic memory, computers fool us to believe that they are clever while in fact they are not. They can recall in a split second a million times more data than a human being in a year. But, as you can easily verify by performing a web search, most of the data they recall is so stupid as to make one laugh. Buy a book about the Bay of Pigs at the Amazon.com web site, and the computer most surely will tell you that other people like you have bought similar books, like Beautiful Caribbean Bays and Feeding Your Pigs the Natural Way.
In honor to truth, however, most of the abilities we attribute to computers are not the product of computers at all, but of a non-computer element called the program. The problem with computer programs is that they are not written by computers, but by humans, and Servando's Law inexorably affects all humans without exception, including (or particularly) computer programmers.
In ancient times, somebody had the idea of giving the moron of the town a stone and a club to keep him busy. The moron learned how to hit the stone with the club and had a happy time. Soon after, people from other towns followed the example. Eventually the stone evolved into a ball, and morons from different towns began getting together to hit the balls with their clubs. That's how golf was invented. Lately, however, morons don't play golf anymore, they learn computer programming. After graduating, some of them create such jewels like the software who was going to automatize luggage operations at the new Denver airport, or marvels like Netscape 6.
Examples that Servando's Law is in force abound. Have you noticed that, lately, people are more stupid than ever before? If you don't see it, it is because Servando's Law is affecting you also. Like the universe, you don't perceive that it is expanding because you are expanding with it.
Take a look around. In recent years, the level of incompetence, ignorance and stupidity, particularly in countries with extensive computer use, have soared. Go to any store, particularly the large ones, and ask the employees any question about something they should know, and you'll see that I am telling the truth. Ask your mechanic what's the problem with your car's transmission. Ask your doctor why you are losing your hair. Ask the technical support guy why your DSL connection quit working this morning. All of them without an exception, will try to bull you with apparently complicated answers that are only smoke screens covering the supine ignorance. Just try, and soon you'll verify that I am actually falling short of the mark. Any person with eyes to see will agree with me that stupidity is on the rise, particularly in the United States, the country with the most extensive use of computers in the world.
I'll bring some facts to support my point. Almost 40 percent of the graduate students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are not from the United States. Most graduate physics students at U.S. schools are not American. Michigan State University reported last year that of 153 applicants for its graduate program in statistics, seven were Americans, while 123 were from China. The University of Tennessee, like most American universities, is desperately recruiting foreigners, not by choice, but out of necessity to survive. Currently, 59 percent of its electrical engineering students are from abroad. About 27 percent of all graduate students in science and engineering currently enrolled in American universities are foreigners. Every year, the percentage of Americans enrolling is falling, while the number of foreigners is climbing.
Chinese, Russian, and Indian immigrants run a quarter of high tech firms in Silicon Valley. In the past three years, eight of the eleven U.S. residents who were awarded Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry were not born in America. An analysis of the countries of origin of those students and professionals who are doing so well in America shows a common characteristic: they come from countries with no extended computer use. They are the product of a traditional system of education, where discipline, hard work, and demanding teachers are the norm, not the exception. Moreover, they are the product of an educational system where computers play a minimal role, or no role at all. No wonder they are much better in matters of the intellect than their computer-moronized American counterparts.
A recent report by the California state Legislative Analyst's Office states that an alarming number of incoming first year students entering the California public universities are unprepared for college-level work. According to the report, one-third of first year students in the UC sytem are not ready for college. Over one-third of UC students did not meet the minimum writing proficiency requirements. This is moderate, however, compared to the California State University System, in which two-thirds of first year students are unable to handle university-level material. As you may have suspected, California is the state with the higher number of computers per capita, and the strongest in the use of computers in all levels of education.
Is there something you can do to save your small children from becoming total morons in less than ten years? I think so, but you need a strong will. First of all, don't send your children to the main American moronizing tool: government schools (the ones most people call "publicschools"). Don't even think about sending them to voucher or private schools as an alternative, because they are already totally contaminated by the moronizing virus. Home schooling is the only true alternative.
Secondly, trash all computers at home, or keep them locked, out of the reach of children (believe me, they are more dangerous than guns!). If you can add to the trash heap all your video games and tv sets, that will be a big step forward in liberating your children's minds from moronizing influences. As a substitute for video games you can buy for them a chess game, or, even better, a game of Go, the ancient Asian game of strategy.
Third, replace all the gadgets you have trashed with plenty of books of all subjects, from poetry and science fiction to chemistry and math textbooks. Set the example by becoming an avid reader yourself.
Finally, buy a musical instrument. A piano, a guitar, or even a conga drum, will do. Let your children free to experiment with music by themselves. If they show any musical talent, try to get a music teacher for them.
If you follow my advice I guarantee that, very soon after they are not exposed any more to the pernicious effects of Servando's Law, you will notice a radical transformation in the behavior of your children. And, when the time arrives, they will successfully compete with the foreigners and will be accepted into any college of their choice.
March 17, 2001
Servando Gonzalez is a Cuban-born American writer and reluctant computer guru. His site Memoirs of a Computer Heretic is available on the Web.
Copyright © 2001 Servando Gonzalez. All rights reserved.
*Servando Gonzalez is a Cuban-born American writer. He is not a member of the NRA.
More biographical information will be added.