THE VALUE OF COMPUTER EDUCATION TODAY

“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire” said William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, dramatist, and prose writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923, and who is regarded by some as the greatest English-language poet of the 20th century. Poets and writers usually have unique ways of putting words to emotions. Emotions and truths that hoi polloi know about, but which they cannot put in words. Education must be seen in a practical sort of way and must be carefully built up. Imparting it is an art; and receiving it is also an art. However, we often do not acknowledge this and go about haphazardly, without building up the basics, a mortal folly any way we look at it.

In today’s world, computers play an indispensable role. However some have differing views. “But they are useless. They can only give you answers” said Pablo Picasso, about computers. Pablo Picasso was a Spanish-born French painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer considered as one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. This viewpoint of Picasso may have something to do with the fact that Picasso was born way back in 1881 and died in 1973. Well, begging to differ from Picasso, I feel that the Age of Computers is on us and we must accept it and adapt. Computer education is the way ahead.

"What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child" said George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and critic who received the Nobel Prize in 1925 and whose writings and speeches made him a controversial public figure for much of his life. A shrewd and humorous personality, he is remembered as a purveyor of verbal gems such as the aforesaid statement. Unfortunately, in our world, we see students burdened heavily by their teachers and thus regretting their plight. And it is a plight, mark my words, that which the students are going through. Students slowly begin to hate a subject or maybe the very concept of studying, and this certainly wont do right? Sometimes the very way of passing down knowledge is flawed to a great

extent. "In large states public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad" said Friedrich Nietzsche, German-Swiss philosopher and writer, one of the most influential of modern thinkers. His analyses of the root motives and values that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. Well, he certainly had a way of banging a nail on its head, I must say.

Till now, a basic knowledge of the working of computers was good enough to survive and maybe go a few places up in the ladder of life. However, it is foreseen that things will change drastically in a few decades or a few years time. The steep advancements in science and technology undertaken by grave scientists are steep indeed, but may be seen in hindsight as gentle slopes compared to what may happen in the coming years. For there looks to be no end to the advancements that can be made. However deep scientists and engineers go, there always seem to be deeper layers; layers within layers and subtle changes, which however mean a great deal of technological advancement. In the same way that scientists first postulated that the atom was indivisible and now think that it is divisible, they are postulating now that there are ways to dig deeper and deeper and come up with newer, better solutions to their problems; problems however that are never-ending. However the watchwords here seem to be cost and availability. Around a hundred and thirty years back, there was no such thing as electricity. I must be a little more specific, I think. I meant there was no such thing as commercial electricity. Well now, things are a bit different right? The oldest man who ever lived, if I remember correctly, lived for around the same amount of time as it took for electricity to become so common i.e. one hundred and thirty years. I often wonder how different the world will be in around the same amount of time in the future.

"The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn" said Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, and writer who is remembered as the greatest Roman orator and the innovator of what became known as Ciceronian rhetoric, which remained the foremost rhetorical model for many centuries.

He was also one of the conspirators who murdered Julius Caesar, but let us not hold that against him. A great thinker and commentator he certainly was by any measurement. It is amazing how his thoughts, thought out long ago can still be applied in this age. Well, it is often said that great minds transcend time. The best orator of one of the greatest empires ever seen would certainly qualify as one right? And so his words ring true, coming back to remind us from the misty past about how bad teachers haunt all generations. No generation-gap here I guess.

“Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all” said John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the U.S. Kennedy's youth, energy, and charming family brought him world adulation and sparked the idealism of a generation, for whom the Kennedy White House became known as “Camelot.” A charismatic personality, his life was tragically cut short before his time by Lee Harvey Oswald. Supposedly, anyway. Murky rumours still abound as to his murderer or murderers, but well, that is beside my point. He was also known as a brilliant orator and had a way with words. In this age, with computers becoming more and more complex and man improving the capacity and power of computers by leaps and bounds, we still have a chasm to cross. A deep chasm any way you look at it. A chasm of Artificial Intelligence.

Once this barrier of AI, as it is known is breached, huge developments will be possible. Already movies have been made about robots with AI. Many of them are not very pleasant, with them being portrayed as heartless, cruel beings, but well, very often fears are unfounded. This barrier still stands, but almost certainly will soon be breached and developments then may dwarf anything seen before. Things have changed a lot in the last few years, but things will certainly change even more in the coming years. We can right now exist without technology and computers, but that may prove to be impossible in just a few years. Now, that is a big difference. This just highlights the important, understated part that an education in computers will play in a few years.

An education in computers does not just mean an education in just computers. It means an education in all forms of technology. “The inside of a computer is as dumb as

hell but it goes like mad!” said Richard Feynman, U.S. theoretical physicist famed for his wit who also wrote best-selling books on science. What he means here is that a computer cannot think for itself, but works extremely well within its narrow bounds. It is up to us to understand its logic and give it instructions to carry, up to the time when the barrier of AI is breached anyway.
PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com

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