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  •                                  NETFUTURE
    
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    
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    Issue #128                                               February 12, 2002
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                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
    
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
    in submission to its inevitabilities?  NetFuture is a voice for
    responsibility.  It depends on the generosity of those who support
    its goals.  To make a contribution, click here.
    
    
    CONTENTS
    ---------
    
    Quotes and Provocations
       Who says Computers Are Becoming More Intuitive?
       The CIA: Drowning in Information
       Why Television is Habit-forming
       Barry Commoner on the De-throning of DNA
       Comments from Readers
    
    DEPARTMENTS
    
    Books Received
       Our Culture's Crisis of Transition
       Eating Locally: Recipe for a Cultural Revolution
    
    Correspondence
       Coyotes Who Can't Stop Killing Sheep (Vincent LaConte)
    
    Announcements and Resources
       Val Setzer on Teaching Computer Technology to High Schoolers
    
    About this newsletter
    
    
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                             QUOTES AND PROVOCATIONS
    
    
    Who Says Computers Are Becoming More Intuitive?
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    It's amazing to see the popular credence still given to the notion that
    (in the words of a news story about computers and education)
    
       Computers are getting more and more intuitive.
    
    Not only is this untrue; it never will be true, pretty much on principle.
    
    What people who say this seem to have in mind is that they themselves have
    become more comfortable with computers over time, or that some particular
    thing they used to do with difficulty can now be done quite simply.  This
    is common enough, but has little to do with computers becoming more
    intuitive.  Particular tasks may be getting easier, but it's also the case
    that overall tasks are becoming vastly more complex.  The old, now-more-
    intuitive particulars are just a tiny part of a much greater and less
    intuitive enterprise.
    
    Take someone off the street with no computer experience and try putting
    him to work using such basic tools as Word, Excel, Access, and Internet
    Explorer.  Does this require less training than was required for a new
    user to come up to speed on the computer tasks typical of fifteen years
    ago?  When something weird happens during his web browsing, ask yourself
    whether he could have any clue as to whether the problem originates with
    his operating system, windowing system, shell, keyboard or mouse, web
    browser, ISP, or the web site he is currently viewing.  I know:  "He
    shouldn't have to worry about any of that.  It should all work together
    transparently".  Sure.
    
    Since I left the high-t