We Are Special. For Now.

People are a little like computers. 

Computers are composed of parts with dedicated responsibilities. Just like people. The central processing unit is the “brain.”  It gathers information, acts on it, and sends the result somewhere.

It uses an input/output system to communicate. To do that, it needs tools. Keyboard, mouse, microphone, camera, the internet, portable memory devices, local fast memory for use by the CPU and usually for video output, and local fixed memory devices. It could output to any of those except the keyboard, mouse and microphone.

It could access other output devices too. A monitor, speakers, and a printer are common.

All of these are controlled by instructions – software. Some instructions are so common they are built in as something between hardware and software. Firmware. Most of the operating system is that because it is fast.

So hardware, firmware and software working together accomplish the tasks.

How like humans. 

We have a brain that accepts input from our senses and acts on it. It files it away in memory and could send its output by speech, signs, or touch.

Where the differences arise is in the software. 

Formal computer software is not easily changed. Instructions run exactly the same way unless specifically changed. Humans change programming rather easily because they can assess the meaning of the results. Humans are good at meaning, computers not so much.

Humans are not so rigorous in changing their programs.

Errors creep in. Interfaces with other programs are not updated. Output is assigned meaning when unjustified.

What we believe becomes a fact. 

We build firmware too. Cultural imperatives. Family traditions. Religion.

Computers have no personality so have nothing to lose if their information changes. Sometimes people hold on to their beliefs well past their expiry date.  That leads to cascading errors. A right answer is seldom based on wrong input.

Humans have the advantage of reflecting on their outputs and amending them as needed, so they should be self-correcting. Beliefs get n the way.

Computers can’t reflect on outcomes and change behaviour. Yet!

We are beginning to see things like robot investment advisors and Siri is good helper.

When they can change behaviour, they will be able to learn. They won’t be held back by beliefs when improving their processes and facts.  That holds great promise and not just a few challenges. We don’t quite know what a sentient and conscious being is. That will be a necessary definition someday, maybe soon.

The key in the meantime. 

  1. Be curious
  2. Be open-minded
  3. Don’t believe everything you think.

Computers are fast, accurate and dumb. People are slow, sloppy and brilliant. We should learn to work together.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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