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Digital Disaster: The Race Of Mankind With Machines

One of the most important years in the history of information technology came in 1937. That was the year that the Atanasoff–Berry Computer was born. Much has changed since the arrival of that first digital machine. Simon Yate of Forrester Research compiled a report back in 2007 that over 1 billion personal computers would be in use by 2008, with that number expected to double by 2015. Keep in mind, those figures are only for personal computers and do not encompass other digital devices that run the gamut from radio-controlled cars to wristwatches to the thousands of small computer devices that are found in the computers that help massive airliners get off the ground and fly, and not to forget the smart phones.

A lot of money and brainpower is spent to better the devices that we use every day. It has now reached the point where the vast majority of us would be unable to get through the day without at least one device. The demand for better, faster technologies has created special rewards, such as the Millennium Technology Prize, that are given to those scientists that can deliver a new IT invention.

The question that now has to be asked is whether we are truly advancing with the use of digital technology or are we delivering disaster to the human race.

While that question may seem incredibly scary when you first look at it, you need to put it in some sort of perspective. There is definitely a place and a need for technology in our world, but it is the type of technology that is being chosen that raises the question we just asked. It is not all forms of technology that are being put under the spotlight here, but rather the every growing use of digital technology.

Binary language is the simplified name for the way in which digital devices work. These employ digital integrated circuits of direct electric current with binary frequencies. It sounds complicated, but is essentially broken down into ones (on) and zero (off). Analog signals are different and use alternating current that either travels in a positive or negative direction. Direct current takes a straight line from positive to negative in the form of waves.

Humans and animals are essentially living machines that uses electric current to transfer data from the brain to all of the essential parts of the body, known as neural network. This explains why we don’t receive any kind of shock when we come into contact with a DC battery. The current that comes from that is not in any kind of conflict with our neural current. Things get a little different when we come into contact with a naked wire, though, as the positive current runs through the body in search of a negative ground, essentially messing with the neural network and the message that’s being sent out by the brain to the other parts of the body. The result is that jolt or shiver that we feel when that contact takes place.

The direct current found in digital devices has a single way of communicating when in the on or off position. Analog devices go beyond the on and off setting and also have to contend with the duration, length, and intensity of waves when trying to communicate. To make that a little easier to explain, in the time that it takes a digital device to process a single page of data, an analog device will have process 16 or more. If we expand that to the human body, we start by looking at how digital media stores information in packets, whereas out neural network uses neurons for storage.

The human brain is made up of 1 billion neurons, with each one having the ability to make 1000 connections to send data. This is why it’s impossible to compare the speed of the brain to that of a computer, and why scientists continually struggle to find a way to integrate man and machine. In January 2014 Telegraph UK mentioned in a report that the most accurate simulation of brain ever has been carried out, but a single second's worth of activity took one of the world's largest supercomputers 40 minutes to calculate, computer has 705,024 processor cores and 1.4 million GB of RAM. That essentially boils down to the same differences between analog and digital technology.

If the same amount of effort was made in advancing analog devices as there has been in the digital domain since 1937, we would now be living in a much advanced world. The biggest progress would have been in the field of biology, where many unsolved problems would have long ago been taken care of.

Jahangir Wasim 

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