Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Intergalactic Computer Network

Walter Isaacson’s book The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution is an informative story not only about the science of the digital revolution but the artistic side as well.  As he introduces those who influenced the movement, Isaacson notes the frequent intersections of art and science in the quest.

One example is J. C. R. Licklider, a man who might well be called the father of the Internet.  Both thoughtful and playful, Licklider began referring to his vision with the “intentionally grandiloquent” phrase “the Intergalactic Computer Network.”  He often spent hours just studying the brush strokes of paintings in order to understand the artist better.

Isaacson notes, “[He] felt that his love of art made him more intuitive. He could process a wide array of information and sniff out patterns. Another attribute, which would serve him well when he helped put together the team that laid the foundations for the Internet, was that he loved to share ideas without craving credit for them.”

Licklider saw computers not has artificial intelligences that would replace humans but as tools to enhance and expand human creativity and decision-making skills

Like Steve Jobs and others whose imaginations gave birth to the wonders of the digital age, Licklider understood that the humanities and technology inform and enrich one another.  We should not have to choose between the two.  This is a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” situation.

As educators put more emphasis on STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), they might consider adding another letter and addressing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ARTS, and mathematics) subjects in order to develop a truly creative generation of leaders.

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