In A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram extends the claim to include biological systems and, indeed, complex behaviors of every kind, including social and cultural systems. In this context, “My mother was a computer” can be understood as alluding to the displacement of Mother Nature by the Universal Computer. Just as Mother Nature was seen in past centures as the source of both human behavior and physical reality, so now the Universal Computer is envisioned as the Motherboard of us all.
The thought that Mother Nature is slowly—or quickly, depending on how you look at it—being replaced by the Universal Computer frightens me. Most kids in my generation have a hard time remembering a time when there weren’t computers or video games. Some of my earliest memories involve playing Duck Hunt on my parents’ Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
I don’t think I would go so far as to say that technology and computers raised me, but they definitely helped shape me as a person. For years, I’ve been an advocate for using video games as an educational asset. I learned and developed while playing the majority of the Jump Start series, and once I was older, I also developed important problem-solving skills by playing more realistic action/adventure and strategy games.
I do agree though, as Hayles pointed out, that the Universal Computer can skew our perceptions of reality as well. Kids who play M-rated games when they’re under the legal age are at risk for developing some cognitive issues when concerned with right and wrong. For many kids whose parents work insane hours to make ends meet, video games become a replacement for parental units. We “entertain” ourselves and parents are happy they don’t have to deal with whining kids all of the time, but at what cost? Is it worth it if video games—or even some youtube videos—are teaching future generations that it’s okay to be violent towards their neighbors?
I’m excited to read this book because the impact of technology on society has always been a theme that interestes me as I sometimes worry that too much exposure to all of this “stuff” will do more harm than good.
via Hayles 1a.