Orchard Lab

A place to share my thoughts and learnings

How can we use computers for the "good"?

Posted at — Feb 7, 2022

When I say “good” here, I am more talking about the non-utilitarian part. I am not talking about using computer to pay your bills, making an important phone call, or using maps for directions. I am more talking about “the others”.

I was touring a school with my son the other day. While we were in the computer class room. I was attracted by all the printed art made by computer programs hanging on the wall.

Some of them are fine drawing pixel art, some of them are simple shape combinations to form cute animal, some of them are abstractions. This reminds me the very original vision of the computer when I was a kid. You can use computer to make all sorts of things, to express yourself.

Fast forward to today, when people think about computer, it’s social medias, it’s Youtube, it’s browsing exotic pictures, it’s an entertainment device. Part of the reason is because of the internet, part of the reason is the mobile devices. These two things together created multiple portals stay with you all the time. You can escape anytime to a different world, different place all the time. But we almost forget how to create, how to make something simple or beautiful, something fulfilling our creation mind. We were more attached to the outer world, but less with our inner world.

You probably would argue that computers are just tools, it depends on how you use them. But the problem is today’s computers / operating systems are not neutral devices. They almost always emphasize one thing over another, they almost always trying to change how you think about it. If you pay attention to the default applications installed on the Mac OS, you would easily spot the trends. There are now pushing you to sign in iClouds, News, TV apps installed by default, and you can’t remove it wether you use it or not, it sits there the first time you start your computer setup. You can hide it, but please never underestimate the power of defaults. You can also learn more from the awesome book Nudge, it talks extensively on how defaults can make a huge difference to your behavior and life.

Computers are great on many things, but I still very much love the part that it enables us to create something we can’t create before.