Do we rely on computers too much?

  • Thread starter alphy
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  • #1
alphy
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Do you think we rely on computers to do too much for us. Remember the Y2K scare, when wackos thought the world would end when all the computers shut down? The problem was averted, but the question remains.

I am espescially interested in hearing younger posters feelings as opposed to those of older posters.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
renedox
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I will quite simply say "yes" to that, there's just no doubt about it.
 
  • #3
Hurkyl
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I'll say we don't rely on computers enough!

But more importantly, I don't think the population in general understands computers enough.
 
  • #4
alphy
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Originally posted by Hurkyl
I'll say we don't rely on computers enough!

But more importantly, I don't think the population in general understands computers enough.

What about when kids stop learning the basics of math and just crunch numbers on a calculator?
 
  • #5
Hurkyl
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What about it?

(Note: I'm not condoning the possibility, but I think you're sensationalizing)
 
  • #6
russ_watters
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Originally posted by Hurkyl
I'll say we don't rely on computers enough!

But more importantly, I don't think the population in general understands computers enough.
That is almost exactly what my first reaction was to the title of the thread.
What about when kids stop learning the basics of math and just crunch numbers on a calculator?
They won't. Thats just not relevant to the question.

I spent a month in calculus class learning to differentiate using limits and let me tell you, I was PISSED when I first learned the chain rule. But just because the chain rule is easier doesn't mean that they are going to stop teaching the long way first.
 
  • #7
abhishek
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Originally posted by Hurkyl
But more importantly, I don't think the population in general understands computers enough.
I disagree. I think the population in general understands computers more than they used to, but certainly not enough. Imo, treatment of computer-related issues like the DMCA, p2p, IP, internet law/regulation, etc. by the powers-that-be and the uninformed laymen show that they only acknowledge computers, and perhaps understand them somewhat superficially.

Besides, how can you say the general population understands computers enough when this sort of thing happens? :wink:


Calculators - so the kids aren't coached to crunch numbers in their heads, but they're definitely shown the process behind the buttons. Personally, I think it'd be good to have a "sharp-minded" population that can count mentally (and who can use calculators/computers proficiently when they can be beneficial), but I suppose educators have better things to waste their time on...
 
  • #8
renedox
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Originally posted by abhishek
...but I suppose educators have better things to waste their time on...

Yes they do, its called giving out detentions :P
 
  • #9
megashawn
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abhishek, I'm confused. Don't feel bad, I woke up too early, maybe its me.

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by Hurkyl
But more importantly, I don't think the population in general understands computers enough.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I disagree. I think the population in general understands computers more than they used to, but certainly not enough.

How do you disagree. You start out by stating you are in disagreement, but then make almost an identical statement to that of Hurkyl's.


And no, the population IMO is getting worse and worse as computers get more "User Friendly". Back when everything was command prompts and guis running on dos, you had to know your stuff. Now a 6 year old kid with a year or two of gameboy time could learn how to make animated cartoons with relative simplicity.

But even still I think the majority of people are still greatly confused by computers. I've been through Computer tech training, and about half way through the class, some of the people with the best grades in the class still knew nothing about the workings and operation of a computer.

I work with a lady who when started here had no computer knowledge. She has been here for over a year now, has memorized "Menu paths" to do her job, and has learned how to open internet explorer and go to the local news website. If something like a warning dialog pops up, it totaly ruins her day, and unless someone is around to fix it, will cause her to not mess with the cpu anymore in fear of breaking it.

No, people are horrible when it comes to computers.

To the note of kids not knowing math, well, if a machine knows it all and is better at, only requiring input from the user, what's the problem? The computer is supposed to be an extension of human capability. As such, the human user should still have a general understanding of the basics, like say, Ohms Law. But having a program designed to calculate the current when V and R is giving isn't taking away from the user, but saving him/her time.

This is why we are capable of doing more work in our lifetime as opposed to earlier generations. My children will probably atleast double my lifelong productivity in their own, largely inpart to computers, and better understanding of them.
 
  • #10
Sting
157
2
DO you think it depends on the individual?

Some of my classmates spend 24 hours a day on a computer and the socialization that goes on is via a chat room.

Me? I'm not too computer savvy and I pretty much use my computer to type of papers for class. For communication, chatting is fine but I need to get out and see people face to face.

And it's not just one classmate, or just me. A majority of people I'm in contact with fit either of the descriptions (or a healthy balance in between).

About the calculator issue: When I signed up for Calculus I my freshman year, the classroom was crammed and everyone had their TI-89 graphing calculators out and were like "I'm going to breeze my way through this class." Then the teacher walks in, props her books on the table, and goes "oh, you're not allowed to use any graphing calculators" and people's jaws dropped to the ground.

After that day, there was always enough place to sit because a good number of people had dropped the class.

Those who stayed and still had a dependence on their TI-89 would sometimes perform horribly on exams because of not being able to factor or FOIL.

For once, I was glad that I was behind in utilizing available technology (My TI-89 spent most of its time in the back of my closet). :smile:
 
  • #11
abhishek
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Originally posted by megashawn
abhishek, I'm confused. Don't feel bad, I woke up too early, maybe its me.



How do you disagree. You start out by stating you are in disagreement, but then make almost an identical statement to that of Hurkyl's.
d'oh, I misread Hurkyl. I didn't pick up the "don't". :wink: So I don't disagree then. :smile:


Originally posted by megashawn
And no, the population IMO is getting worse and worse as computers get more "User Friendly". Back when everything was command prompts and guis running on dos, you had to know your stuff. Now a 6 year old kid with a year or two of gameboy time could learn how to make animated cartoons with relative simplicity.
hmm, I don't know about that (assuming I haven't misread you too ). I think intuitive, usable, human-centric interfaces are definitely a good thing. But what I fear is that the gap between those who know (and produce) and those who don't (and use) is widening, which is probably not too good. If the principles behind, say, computer animation were taught at some level, but the "user-friendliness" was also used, then we might have a good solution. That is, make a product with an effective and efficient interface without dumbing down the user.
 
  • #12
Beren
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First off, I don't think the general populace understands computers in the slightest. Some know how to "use" them, but they don't know what they can be used for. When something goes wrong in this day in age, the term "it's because there was a computer breaking down" is a common phrase. People don't realize it's USER ERROR that makes the computers break down, and even then 90% of the time it's not the computers anyway. Technology is an easy excuse to pin troubles on when things go wrong. Why? Because it can't fight back.

As for calculators, that's just silly. The same arguments were introduced when the slide rule was invented, and obviously, kids still had to learn how to count. The concepts have to be understood, before a calculator can be utilized.

I remember a Calculus class, much the same as Sting's (except we were using Ti-86s). And Graphing calculators were used to the fullest, BUT they were used in aid to teaching. The problem with these classes won't be that the students can't learn how to do the calculations because they have a calculator, it's that the teachers don't know how to use the calculators! A recent trend in public schooling has had uper-level math classes (especially Trig) taught by people in the computer department.

The same arguments always come along whenever a new technology is put in place, simply because humans are naturally afraid of change. But in the end, it's all overblown. We integrate it into our lives, it may even change our lives, but any knowledge we lose is a good riddance.

Who wants to memorize logarithm tables anyway? Just a waste of brainspace.
 
  • #13
liljediboi
28
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whats the worst that can happen? the matrix? seriously, if i was plugged into the little power thingie, and i lived in a made up world, i wouldn't quite mind, sucks for the people outside though. ignorance is bliss
 
  • #14
renedox
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Originally posted by liljediboi
ignorance is bliss

If ignorance is bliss, you must be orgasmic :P

Personality, I embrace technology and change. Without it, where would we even be today?
 
  • #15
Sting
157
2
As for calculators, that's just silly. The same arguments were introduced when the slide rule was invented, and obviously, kids still had to learn how to count. The concepts have to be understood, before a calculator can be utilized.

I really don't know how to respond to this comment. I understand exactly where you are coming from, but just a personal example:

I got my TI-89 my senior year of high school. A month later I learned how to switch it on. Then I decided to goof off with it and so I tried the integrating function (remember, I took my first Calculus course in college). The only thing I knew about integration was that it was with respect to some variable. I plug in a equation, the variable (following the syntax), and (to quote Emeril) BAM! It popped out an equation.

What I'm trying to get at is that I was able to use my calculator to solve for an integral (but at the same time, I knew nothing about integrals and how to solve for them by hand).

Do you see what I'm trying to get at here?

I work in the Math Lab at my school and I was helping one kid with his Calculus homework. There was a point where he had to factor out a really simple second-degree equation and so he reaches into his backpack and takes out a TI- eighty something. The time he spent trying to find the calculator, he could have factored it out easily.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not against calculators or technology. However, I feel that SOME people have a dependency on their calculators.

Okay, I know this was off-topic but oh well :smile:
 
  • #16
selfAdjoint
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It's not true about slide rules either. I started using slide rules in the fifth grade (you could buy a crude one for a dollar). This was not to replace hand calculation but to speed it up. You had to understand the math in order to place the decimal point, which a slide rule doesn't give you. And when I later came to learn logarithms I had a much better feel for them from working all those years with the logarithmic scales on the slide rule.
 
  • #17
Beren
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Originally posted by selfAdjoint
It's not true about slide rules either. I started using slide rules in the fifth grade (you could buy a crude one for a dollar). This was not to replace hand calculation but to speed it up. You had to understand the math in order to place the decimal point, which a slide rule doesn't give you. And when I later came to learn logarithms I had a much better feel for them from working all those years with the logarithmic scales on the slide rule.


That..was my point. All the arguments came to nothing, as kids still had to learn what the theory behind the numbers were.


Hm.. and in response to Sting's question, that made me think. I'm seeing less and less evidence of your example now, but it is worrysome. A lot of math teachers have come up with the "you can use calculators for everything but tests" rule, which means kids do learn how to do the calculations, but use the calculators on homework to speed it up. (Probably not the best way to do things, as you don't get much practice by hand). I'm sure there is some degrading of ability to do calculations by hand, but most students (and almost all teachers) will teach the kids how to do things by hand. As teachers learn how to better and better teach with the calculators, things should even themselves out.
 
  • #18
Sting
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In all honesty, I really see this "calculator dependency" in incoming freshmen. As students progress, they still use the calculator, but don't rely on it as much (which I believe is ideal).

Before you guys think some anti-technology advocate, let me stress that I'm not against technology.

In my Differential Equations class, we use Maple or our TI-89's to go through all the grunt work (it is assumed you can perform integration techniques like partial fractions and trig substitution).
 
  • #19
Sourire
57
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YES WE DO!I work in technical support for a software company and ohhhh man.. the second someone computer does not work you would think that someone was going to die! I think it is rediculus...






There are some people that should not even touch one!
 
  • #20
Sting
157
2
YES WE DO!I work in technical support for a software company and ohhhh man.. the second someone computer does not work you would think that someone was going to die! I think it is rediculus...

lol. That's like some people who arrive in the Math Lab. But the problem with some of the Math Lab people is that they don't bother reading the directions and then they go crazy when something doesn't work (which I assume is on the same lines as your problem).
 
  • #21
ShawnD
Science Advisor
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We don't rely on computers enough. We should learn how something works then use the computer to do it.

Calculators are not some kind of cheating tool. If you don't know how math works, you can't use a calculator. If I gave you a calculator and something like log[x/5] = 856 and you had no prior knowledge of how a log works, would you be able to solve this question? A calculator is just a tool to help you speed up doing stuff you already know.

Calculators have really really helped improve the ability to learn new things. Look at chemistry. Chemistry involes a lot of log functions, many of them base e. Now how the hell do you solve log functions with a base of e when you don't have a calculator? It would take like an hour to do 1 simple log calculation. You can either spend an hour doing 1 question without a calculator or you can spend an hour doing 50 questions with a calculator. Now which of the two helps you learn more? Doing 1 example of doing 50 examples? I get the feeling that doing 50 helps you remember a lot better.
When my dad went to tech school to learn electrical engineering, the program was 3 years long. Now, the program is 2 years long and they learn the same stuff. Instead of using a slide rule - which sucks, they use a calculator. Instead of drafting with a pencil, they use computers. I can tell you from first hand experience that using the computer is at least 50x faster than using a pencil. With CAD I can dimension something in like 5 minutes. Doing the same thing with a pencil will easily take a good 2 hours.

Computers rock :smile:
 
  • #22
csmines
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I think that people rely on computers enough, but then there isn't the neccisity for the layman to rely on computers as often. I've recently learned to use Mathematica and it helps me to an enormous degree in my math physics class and classical mechanics class. Problems that are impossible to solve analytically can easily be solved numerically. Take a realistic particle reentering the atmosphere and all the forces on it and the accelerations from those forces, plug them into a while loop and type in the velocity,position, and other time evolving characteristic forces and solve it. It's wonderfully simple. I understand that it's easier in other languages, but I don't know how to code in C++ yet, but I will definitely be learning.

So I suppose I think that on average the people who should rely on computers do so often enough.
 
  • #23
Sting
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Calculators are not some kind of cheating tool. If you don't know how math works, you can't use a calculator. If I gave you a calculator and something like log[x/5] = 856 and you had no prior knowledge of how a log works, would you be able to solve this question? A calculator is just a tool to help you speed up doing stuff you already know.

If I may direct you to an earlier post:

I got my TI-89 my senior year of high school. A month later I learned how to switch it on. Then I decided to goof off with it and so I tried the integrating function (remember, I took my first Calculus course in college). The only thing I knew about integration was that it was with respect to some variable. I plug in a equation, the variable (following the syntax), and (to quote Emeril) BAM! It popped out an equation.

What I'm trying to get at is that I was able to use my calculator to solve for an integral (but at the same time, I knew nothing about integrals and how to solve for them by hand).

I'm not some anti-technology advocate. I think calculators are great and they save a lot of time (and after a class like Statistics, I'm grateful for mine). However, I think that some people have a ever growing dependency on calculators to perform very simple arithmetic.
 
  • #24
limcalicious
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Personally, I'm not against calculators at all... I mean they do help when doing long equations of some sort.. but nowadays younger students have to do simple math on calculators. For example, in one of my math classes, a problem called for dividing two fractions. The professor asked us to do it by hand, and nobody could. It was one of the most pathetic things ever. We rely on calculators and computers a lot these days, and because of that, our brains are becoming duller and duller. :frown:
 
  • #25
ShawnD
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limcalicious said:
For example, in one of my math classes, a problem called for dividing two fractions. The professor asked us to do it by hand, and nobody could.


That's classic. Wait until those people try to learn the factor unit method of doing chemistry calculations. They'll be in big trouble.
:rofl:
 
  • #26
Tom McCurdy
1,019
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Calculators and school
The calculator makes it so a lot of kids don't know how to do basic math
multpication and division
for example
I had to kind of create my own methods of doing both or alternative methods
because i was never taught how to do it
there was no need
calculators are always there

then again i get mad when teachers tell me to do the problems out on the calc
I have become very good at programing on 83 and usually could program how to do problems in math before the teacher was done with the first example

so on the next problem that takes everyone 10 min includding the teacher i would have the anwer in like 2 seconds

it seems like if u know how to program something
then you know how to do it.
 
  • #27
Moonbear
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Sourire said:
YES WE DO!I work in technical support for a software company and ohhhh man.. the second someone computer does not work you would think that someone was going to die! I think it is rediculus...

If someone not quite so young can chime in...

It's not the technology, it's the people using it. Those same people who panic when a warning window pops up are the ones who used to panic when their adding machine ran out of tape, or the tape got jammed up inside somehow (okay, who here even remembers adding machines?). There have always been people who can't do simple math in their head. Before pocket calculators were common, if a cash register had a problem at the store, it was common to see clerks puzzling with a pencil and paper to add a few simple numbers and trying to make change. There are a lot of people who learn one way to do things and only that one way, and they are completely helpless if something goes wrong with that. Somehow I'm imagining the laughter when those first people to use ballpoint pens found themselves without a refill and having to clean up blobs of ink left from their lack of skill at using a good ol' reliable fountain pen. :rofl:

As for the calculators solving your problems for you, in the long run, it really won't help. You have to learn to do the calculus and basic math so you can use it later. Nobody is going to run up to you on the street and demand you integrate something or they'll kill you. What you really need to learn is how to USE that calculus for solving the real problems that don't have easy answers. For that, you'll always need an understanding of the fundmentals, not just how to get your calculator to spit out an answer on a homework set. If you don't bother to learn that early on, you'll only be cheating yourself out of the education. If you never need to use it again, then no harm done (other than I then wonder why you would take the course in the first place), but if you do need it in the future, better to learn it right the first time.
 
  • #28
alphy said:
Do we rely on computers too much?
Dunno, but I'm hoping there's a software program available to help answer this question.

I am espescially interested in hearing younger posters feelings as opposed to those of older posters.
:rofl:
 
  • #29
bd1976
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Guys I have just finished a maths degree and I still can't add up properly in my head. I can however, tell you how to build a calculator. Maths has very little to do with being able to add up quickly.
 
  • #30
ShawnD
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bd1976 said:
Guys I have just finished a maths degree and I still can't add up properly in my head. I can however, tell you how to build a calculator. Maths has very little to do with being able to add up quickly.
I know that feeling. My dad doesn't know much about calculus or algebra, but he can multiply 3 digit numbers in his head very quickly. I'm the opposite way; I know a bit of algebra and calculus, but I can't even add 3 digit numbers.
 

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