Photo Credit: Clear Trackpad Concept from Vapor Studio
Note to Reader: The Jewish sources will hopefully be added in the next few days, when the transcript for the class behind this article becomes available.
By Yonatan Gordon
There are many benefits to technology. But increasingly it seems that before we scratch the surface of some new gadget, the updated version has already been released. The iPad 5 is coming to stores soon, but didn’t the iPad 4 just come out not so long ago? Pre-release rumors have also come out for the iPad Mini 2 and iPhone 5s. But the rapid rise of replacements isn’t reserved for Apple products. Even before the Leap Motion hand sensor comes out in May, wearable computing has also replaced hand sensors as the “next big thing,” thanks to new forearm muscle gesture device from Thalmic Labs. To quote co-founder Stephen Lake,
“Right now we’re just on the cusp of a major shift in computing, and whether it’s a Google product or something else, at some point in the next couple years wearable computing devices are going to change how everyone will communicate and interact with technology,” he says. “Ultimately the line between us and our devices will start becoming a lot more blurred.” — Wired.com “Your Next Computer Will Live on Your Arm”
In an effort to further assist this article, we will also be inserting quotes from another recent Wired.com article entitled “Can the iPad Rescue a Struggling American Education System?”
TURNING OFF THE POWER SWITCH
“In the shift to digital, it’s not just about replacing textbooks but inventing new ways of learning,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said.
We mentioned in our Leap Motion article about the importance of taking conceptual leaps forward. So too, it is important when discussing products and technology to first imagine pursuits without it. Is it possible to still generate the “iPad” experience without an iPad? This is something we mentioned briefly in our prior articles, but now it a good time to elaborate on this further.
While technology provides us with great tools, we mentioned before in our Apple Turnaround Series that the expert teacher doesn’t need tools. Actually, we stated something stronger. That if the teacher is relying on tools, then maybe this is a sign that he or she is not an expert teacher. A teacher is meant to convey ideas, innovative discussions that inspire the students. But it is up to the students to implement these teachings. This is the deeper reason why the Leap Motion sensor, the Thalmic Labs forearm device, etc… also come with Open API. They want to portray the open-source nature of the product. But unlike our teacher example, these products really are tools. But an expert ultimately doesn’t need these tools. This is a very strong point, one that we hope to clarify in this discussion.
COMPUTING WITHOUT A COMPUTER
We also mentioned in Part 3 of our Product Flip Cycle series, that the desire to always update products stems from our desire to keep our hands clean. Never to hold on to the material aspect of it, but instead, to stay true to the pristine idea that first inspired it. So too, as long as we rely on technology to provide us with us the answers, then our road to become an expert is cluttered with products. In order to graduate from being a student to an expert, we need to first learn how to experience technology without the product.
What does it mean to own a computer? The first task, the one that it is so named for, is related to mathematics. People used to carry out complex mathematics in their head, but now computers do the work for us. Now on the one hand, it seems that computers can answer more complicated equations than what a human can answer. But unlike the computer, which follows a strict program and protocols, people are less predictable. While even the most advanced supercomputer has a computational limit (although it may be very great), the human mind remains uncharted territory (although they keep trying). Perhaps one day we will be able to perform calculations even greater than the most advanced computer? As we hope to explain, the potential for this way of thinking comes first through envisioning life without these products.
“The iPad has given us an opportunity to make technology transparent,” said Sara DeWitt, Vice President at PBS KIDS Digital.When we experience life without technology, we are taken beyond the binary logic of zeros and ones. While our road without gadgets may be less paved, it is also much less sequential and predictable.
When technology is turned off, our ability to “leap motion” forward comes to the forefront. While many say that Quantum Computing will be the “next big thing” to follow wearable computing, etc… our approach is to view the attraction to products in light of their underlying concepts. Why then is the “quantum computing” idea so attractive? As we explained in our Leap Motion article, “quantum leaping” also connotes transcending perceived limits of time and space (as with Einstein’s Quantum Entanglement principle). But in this article, our running question is how re-imagine the technology experience without the gadget. So how can we “quantum compute” without the device?
Imagine a student is listening to his teacher via the internet, writing down class notes as the teacher is speaking. Then all of a sudden, the internet connection goes down. There are two choices: either the student can stop taking notes, or he can continue. The secret is how he can continue with the video feed also explains how a person can “quantum compute” without the computer. The intention of the student was not to do something miraculous, much like the intention of Clark Kent (in the theoretical example from our previous article) was not to fly up and redirect the nuclear missile to the Sun. But there was no other choice. Like Clark Kent, who in our example, may have tried to warn people using natural means (i.e. publishing articles) about the dangers of Lex Luther; our student also tried to first take notes using the internet connection.
Why did we use the word “vanish” is the title? Because it connotes something unexpected. Even if we intentionally step away from technology for a time, it is important not to presume that we know what will happen. This is the first point we wanted to mention in this article. That unlike the sequential nature of a computer, when technology is turned off, stops working, etc… it opens up something potentially much more profound and meaningful.
MAKING OTHERS COUNT
Our intention behind taking the concept of technology apart, is in order to put ourselves back together again in a greater way. The drive to begin this activity stems from our desire to carry the burden of others. It starts from the heart, being compassionate for others, to want to help others. It is from this that we can then overcome the external trappings of products and technology, and use them as they were intended. This is the relationship between computers and the ability to change the world. The first lesson of how to experience computers properly, to first make a true accounting (i.e. computation) for one’s own activities. Mathematics is related to wisdom, which also means to take the role of a teacher, coming up with new thoughts and insights (also the “idealist” in our Product Flip Series). But to make a proper accounting refers to one’s actions, which relates more to the executable commands or applications of the students. Who comes up with the inventions? Ideally these are the students. Those that have listening to the “intellectual-speak” of their teacher, and found some plain and simple way to apply it.
When people discuss “turning off” or “unplugging” technology, it is usually said that it brings a sense of calm and peace of mind. The deeper reason behind this is because the greatest blessings come when we count something that is hidden. As long as we had the computer, it was doing the counting for us. But now that it was turned off, what is left still is our desire to count for the sake of helping others. In order to come up with an answer to some equation or quandary that was troubling another. Similar to our student who continues taking notes without the internet connection, someone who is well-versed in mathematics may very well “leap” to the result of the equation… a task that a computer would sequentially need minutes, hours, months or years to complete. This is because while explaining the steps takes time, the result or answer to the equation is something spontaneous. This is only something that a human can accomplish.
This ability to “leap” to the solution comes from the human awareness that we don’t really understand things to begin with. Whereas a computer starts and ends with a logical process, the creative thinker can simply skip to the “punch line.” How does a thinker merit to these leaps? By being aware of how the answer, or the notes from the class, of the redirection of the nuclear missile, will benefit others.
Products and technology are limited because they presume to access information directly; we plug a question into the computer, and sequentially it works to provide us with our answer. This is termed counting the “somethingness” within an item. It is because of its limited nature, that it also needs to abide by the rules of the program. But people can count the “nothingness,” and as a result, can reach levels above the preconceived rules of the program. There are two important factors to keep in mind when leaping: 1) That they have weighed the concerns of another more heavily than their own personal feelings. To leap also means to go behind your personal comfort level. So a person is leaping in order to benefit others. 2) The measurement, count or result of the answer is not known in advance. While he knows that leaping will be helpful, he doesn’t know exactly how. This is because humans, unlike computers, begin from first not knowing the answer (knowing the “nothingness” of the answer). As mentioned, this is something that a computer does not have (as they are counting the “somethingness” of things).
Sometimes we can know things directly, and sometimes the only way to understand something is through something indirect. But products always present a person with some direct solution. So when we turn off the switch, it’s also an opportunity to turn on another switch. To count the nothingness of something, those things that come from not knowing, and reveal something unlimited in the recipient. Someone who relies solely on technology is limited because the benefit is also limited. But someone who is unlimited is unlimited within the limited. What does that mean? That his ideas always stem from nothingness. From not knowing the answer. From a state of what appears to be intellectual darkness. But from there the greatest light can emanate.
In order to bring answers down to a limited reality, we need to transition past products and limited things. To envision a world without gadgets, at least for a moment. Then we can always put the plug back in the wall.
OUTSMARTING THE SUPERCOMPUTER
One the one hand, turning things off can be seen as a form of strictness; especially for those that have accustomed themselves to keeping track of the last news, etc… But from this strictness, unlimited potentials can be harnessed. As we will now explain, the desire to blur the lines of technology, to bring them closer and closer to a person, eventually leads to a desire to make them vanish entirely. To bring them closer to our natural gestures, in order to move and operate in the world without it.
While greatest thing we could do without computers is computation (even leaping to answers), it goes from mathematics to others things as well (e.g. our understanding of science, psychology, etc…). The result of what we have said is that to train our mind with mental leaps in mathematics, takes us even further than the most advanced supercomputer. This is the secret of this article, that the wisdom involved in doing computation ourselves can bring us to a new awareness, a higher part of ourselves, that we never thought possible. This comes through toil, something that no computer can bring. From this toil and concern for others, we can reach associations that transcend any program on any computer.
When are products used to their fullest? When although we hold them in our hand, we have learned to also rise above them with our own insights and thoughts. This again can be likened to a teacher in from our their classroom. The goal of this intellectual-speak of the teacher is to wean their students away from the reliance on products. While in some ways it is good to first abide by the program (as we said of the note-taking student), it is also most advantageous to rise above to a higher part of ourselves; bringing the unlimited within the limited. This is like The Paradox of Invention introduced in Part 2 of our Product Flip Series. While the ideas from the idealistic teacher may initially inspire the students to invent products, the ultimate intention is that the students should becomes idealist teachers themselves. From the willingness of the teacher to inspire the students, comes the ability of the students to advance technology from these newly gained insights. But while the product may be going through update after update, as a result of class after class of the teacher, of ultimate importance is the lesson being conveyed. This is what it means to contain the unlimited within the limited. When we speak of insights, it always works together with the product of the insight; this is also like the relationship between mathematics and the natural world. First a physicist theorizes through computational analysis, then he seeks to empirically back and test his findings. Back to our discussion about the technology then. Open API is attractive because it reminds us of this teacher/student relationship. When the listening students are providing feedback, then it shows that they are applying the lessons of their teacher. This also means that the technology is advancing with each new class.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS
“How tablets are integrated into classrooms is key to success,” said Sallie Severns, founder and CEO of iOS app Answer Underground. “Planning, preparation, implementation and evaluating apps are key to using this new technology.”
While the expert teacher should in some ways be above the world, the students are very much in the world. They are the ones that have the latest products, listen to the latest tech news, etc… But by training students to integrate the class, without the need to invent some product or gadget, the teacher is also training the student to become an expert teacher themselves. This is because, as noted in our leaping to the mathematical answer example, the end result doesn’t involve computation, only insight or light. To count is still orderly, but to be unlimited means to be the teacher ourselves.
To do computation is not meant for everyone, but every person should be an innovator. So the question then is should a person concern themselves with computation at all? But like our note-taking student, a good place to start is with the normative way of doing things. Even as we undertake these computations though, it is also important to keep in mind the ability to reach something above nature. This is like a teacher that performs intellectual “leaps” in his lesson in his lesson in order to reach to the inner character of the students. In order to develop their inner being, the teacher also needs to train themselves to transcend the program or counting process entirely. This is also a leap for the teacher, someone who was professionally trained in mathematics. But in order to help their students leap, the teacher also needs to leap as well.
In order to transcend the program, the student needs to bypass counting or computation by experiencing the light of insight and innovation themselves. This comes from the students assembling their own group of students. As long as a person is receiving the teachings, they can at best invent a product or improve some existing product. But once they gather together their own group, they then can become innovators in their own right.
While the innovative ideas from the teacher can be considered like light-filled thoughts that came from nothing (like the Cashmere effect), the drive of the students is to turn these ideas into some product or application for the world. But at the level above or before nature, both are equal. Both the nothing and the something, the teacher and the student. But the teacher needs the students in order to convey the lesson, this is why we are inclined to express our thoughts (e.g. the theory of a physicist) using something physical thing like technology (e.g. the CERN particle accelerator).
This is because a thinker also wants to be a realistic, to see the realistic expression of their thoughts. To see how their lesson changed the students through the students understanding how to apply, and in effect prove, the teachings. But the students want the opposite, they are not driven by realism but innovation, the insights of the teacher. When both coexist together, this also reflects the state where insight and products, nothingness and being are equal. At this level. no longer does the material obscure the idea. In mathematics when two things are equal it is called a truism. But when we say they are unified, something else has happened.
We call this the “singularity” of consciousness.
Who unifies both extremes? The best among the teachers can unify the extremes among their students. This concept also relates to the best programmer; the one who can create a computer program that includes all the students.
Ideally the person who brings us the product will also have all the potential students in mind; like the millions of potential apps to be created and published on the Apple App Store. The program behind the device should have an opening for everyone to add onto it. To make it better. Again, this is like the feedback of the students in the classroom.
There are those who dislike technology entirely because they say we did much better without it. While it is something new, they say it doesn’t help us to lead better lives. But we don’t say that. We say that these are tools to help express ourselves. Until the students become the teachers themselves, we let them invent products to help them apply the lessons of their teacher.
What does it mean to be victorious over technology? When the expert teacher has taken in all the different types of students into their classroom, and directs them to listen and learn from what they have to say. The furthest of the left and the furthest of the right. Only the best and most expert teacher can do this. To create a perfect Open API lesson that includes all the potential contributions of everyone, while holding their interest in the lesson.
But still the expert teacher knows that it would be better for the students not to create products at all. That above computation is the simple light or answer of the teacher. But the teacher also has to have students to speak positively about the class experience; to have students that show others that the teacher is not teaching them something just to take their money. That he has their best interests at heart. So he lets them develop products for the meantime so that others are encouraged to join the class, and contribute to the teacher’s expenses.
While the teacher thinks that maybe there should be apps without the iPad, in order to have compassion for the students, we still let them take notes with the iPad or other device in hand. Even so, the teacher still has in mind that it would be much better is these products disappeared…at least for a little while. This is because the teacher is pushing his students forward toward understanding the nothingness of concepts and ideas. This relates to the wisdom of the teacher than comes from nothing toward being. But to calm down the students who want something to hold onto, we give them something to hold. But the ultimate intention is to teach them that you can be an innovator without needed to hold onto products. For the meantime, this is what the students need because otherwise they will talk themselves out of ever progressing forward. They will think the task to become an expert teacher is simply too difficult.
We started this discussed with counting numbers, but now we are counting the emptiness and lack of the product. To weigh the importance time spent without these products in our hands.
Why do new products come out so often? Because there are new realities unfolding all the time. This again relates back to our teacher in the classroom. Each new lesson both inspired new product and updates from the students, but it also encourages the teacher to progress forward as well. In order to keep proper classroom management, the teacher needs to make sure to keeping including all their students in the discussion; otherwise there will be students at the furthest right and left that aren’t included.
The other result of each new class is as we started this article; it also calls attention to the inherent limits behind products, and creates the feeling that we never actually holding the product at all. It is always turned off for us because life, reality is always updating. Only when we keep track of the changes (i.e. using our technology news feed), do we then empirically observe an example of how fast reality really is updating.
But as mentioned, life and potential is always updating. While the student first thinks they need an object to be productive, ultimately we don’t need even this. At this level of awareness, there is no need for the constant news feeds because you feel it internally.
Why do product updates anger a person? Because it reminds us of the barrier they create between a potential of reality, and the present-day limitations of our world. While products are a means to measure something, the root of concepts is something limitless. Products remind us that everything has a source, the origin of the idea that far transcends even the product itself. The teacher can do a great deal, but once there is a product, the method of expression is limited.
The first thing a savvy student programmer learns is the ability to decode the program; unlocking their understanding of the language that the teacher uses to convey the lesson. From unlocking these insights of their teacher, the student can then better understand how the coding of the program is a reflection of what that particular student needs. Even though the teacher is speaking to a classroom full of students, the listening student “decodes” those messages specifically related to them.
Next Up: Higgs Boson, Quantum Entanglement and Particle Computing!
Excerpted and adapted from the weekly shiur (class/lesson) given 26 Adar 5773 from Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh