Plato and the Nerd: The Creative Partnership of Humans and Technology
How humans and technology evolve together in a creative partnership.
In this book, Edward Ashford Lee makes a bold claim: that the creators of digital technology have an unsurpassed medium for creativity. Technology has advanced to the point where progress seems limited not by physical constraints but the human imagination. Writing for both literate technologists and numerate humanists, Lee makes a case for engineering—creating technology—as a deeply intellectual and fundamentally creative process. Explaining why digital technology has been so transformative and so liberating, Lee argues that the real power of technology stems from its partnership with humans.
Lee explores the ways that engineers use models and abstraction to build inventive artificial worlds and to give us things that we never dreamed of—for example, the ability to carry in our pockets everything humans have ever published. But he also attempts to counter the runaway enthusiasm of some technology boosters who claim everything in the physical world is a computation—that even such complex phenomena as human cognition are software operating on digital data. Lee argues that the evidence for this is weak, and the likelihood that nature has limited itself to processes that conform to today's notion of digital computation is remote.
Lee goes on to argue that artificial intelligence's goal of reproducing human cognitive functions in computers vastly underestimates the potential of computers. In his view, technology is coevolving with humans. It augments our cognitive and physical capabilities while we nurture, develop, and propagate the technology itself. Complementarity is more likely than competition.
About the Author
Edward Ashford Lee is Distinguished Professor (Emeritus) in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, where he runs iCyPhy, a research center focused on industrial cyber-physical systems. He is the author of Plato and the Nerd (MIT Press) and other books.