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Humanist Archives: Dec. 11, 2021, 9:58 a.m. Humanist 35.404 - critically conscious computing

              Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 35, No. 404.
        Department of Digital Humanities, University of Cologne
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        Date: 2021-12-10 14:16:41+00:00
        From: maurizio lana <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 35.400: critically conscious computing

hi Willard,
i would like to recall the perspective of D. Engelbart who saw the
computer as an assistant to the single person ("augmenting human
intellect") enhancing the individual where s/he is weaker, in order
to free the time for those impossible-to-foresee-and-to-plan tasks
where human intelligence shines.
those tasks are not those of the capitalist factory.
he worked in a mixed civil-military context but he definitely was
not an insider of the military-capitalist system. ii is important to
recall the ending lines he wrote in  «Augmenting human intellect: a
conceptual framework.» AFOSR-3233. Menlo Park, CA: Stanford Research
Institute. in
1962 in  the middle of the atomic race :

After all,
we spend great sums for disciplines aimed at understanding
and harnessing nuclear power. Why
not consider developing a discipline aimed at
understanding and harnessing "neural power?" In the
long run, the power of the human intellect is really much
the more important of the two.

for D. Engelbart there are many sources where one can find insights
about "what he thought when he did it"

Il 10/12/21 08:04, Humanist ha scritto:

you said that you "think that 'what they thought when they did it' remains an
open and important question". I agree that this question "remains open", and
forever; but important? to whom? Who votes for 'critical consciousness' has,
IMHO, to look on the cirumstances for whatever inventions - and their
consequences under such circumstances: atomar weapons, military incriptions

Date: 2021-12-08 16:37:55+00:00
From: Willard McCarty <>
Subject: Critically Conscious Computing?

Some here will already know about Ko et al, Critically Conscious Computing:
Methods for Secondary Education; in case not, see
( I mention it here, however,
to raise a question about what a 'critically conscious' perspective

Consider, if you would, the first sentence of Chapter 8, "Computers":

Digital computers were invented as a way of replacing people with
something faster, less error prone, and tireless, mirroring the
capitalist values of the industrial revolution.

Really? Was that the intention of the inventors? The need for critical
perspectives on computing would be very difficult to gainsay; the question,
I'd think, is whether a critical perspective takes into account as much as
can be known about "what they thought when they did it", as Richard
Hamming once wrote. One could avoid the problem here by saying that,
'When digital computers were invented, they reflected capitalist values
of the Industrial Revolution. Replacing people with a faster, less error-prone
and tireless way of producing goods did not seem to trouble those who
pushed to automate the workplace." Or something similar. But I'd still
think that "what they thought when they did it" remains an open and
important question.


Willard McCarty,
Professor emeritus, King's College London;
Editor, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews;  Humanist

Maurizio Lana
Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
Università del Piemonte Orientale
piazza Roma 36 - 13100 Vercelli
tel. +39 347 7370925

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