On Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 6:20 PM, Craig Weinberg <whatsons...@gmail.com>wrote:

> > Accumulating wealth is hardly an achievement of human progress.

Wealth and human progress are strongly linked and only in very rich western
cultures can anybody afford to say that material things are not important,
and even then it's clear from their actions they don't really mean it, and
people in the third world don't even bother to say it.

> Driving a car is not an abstraction, but aside from being dangerous if
> performed badly, it really isn't particularly difficult.

That is incorrect, at a absolute level driving a car is extremely
difficult. The problem is that until the mid 20'th century nobody
understood what was intellectually easy and what was hard at a fundamental
level. We find it easy to figure out how to move our appendages to catch a
thrown ball, or to recognize objects from any angle even under strange
lighting conditions, but we find it hard to solve partial differential
equations or to play a good game of chess. In 1950 everybody figured that
was because one class of tasks was fundamentally more difficult than the
other, but when we tried to reproduce both chores from square one we
learned that catching a baseball was far more difficult than playing a good
chess game. There must be machinery in our head (constructed from genes)
that makes even the most clumsy among us to be masters of hand eye
coordination compared with today's robots, but there is no such dedicated
machinery for being good at chess, so we find that hard. In fact I think it
is only a slight exaggeration to say that at a fundamental level a janitor
has a more intellectually demanding job (requiring more FLOPS) than a
professor of mathematics.

> Computers were much more exciting in the 1980s than they are now.

People always say that the world was better when they were young, but what
they really mean is that they personally were happier when they were young.
You could still get some of those old antique computers on Ebay, but if you
did I think you'd find that they were not nearly as much fun as you
remembered them to be.

  John K Clark

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