Saturday, March 20, 2010

Human-tool intellectual partnership

Salomon, Perkins and Globerson in their article "Partners in Cognition", which can be downloaded from an earlier post, state the case of human-tool partnership as follows:
The partnership with computer tools entails the three major ingredients one finds in a human partnership: (a) a complimentary division of labor that (b) becomes interdependent and that (c) develops over time. Moreover, the partnership is genuinely intellectual; As defined by the concept of intelligent technology, the tool assumes part of the intellectual burden of information processing. For example, spread sheets, statistical packages, and graphing utilities provide the expert with powerful facilities that shortcut the cognitive effort required to produce a professional result, as well as allow a less experienced novice to fashion a respectable product.
It is a slippery slope for academicians when even Einstein admits that the lowly pencil made him more clever than he was alone and deviceless. And as a craftsman, I get bored, impatient and somewhat offended by the academic predisposition to adjudge those outside the university environment as having lesser intellect.

Is "genuinely intellectual" confined to the efforts and domain of the scholar? I would suggest not. From a craftsman's angle, one might view all tools and their various refinements as having the purpose of alleviating cognitive as well as physical burdens on the operator. Each tool embodied the wisdom and intellect of previous iterations and their makers. As powerful as computers might be at organizing information, tools of all kinds have provided the foundation for scientific discovery and cultural creativity. I can provide many interesting examples and I know you can come up with some on your own.

The tragic divide between academia, and the world of skilled craftsmanship has profound implications. As long as we isolate the education of the head from that of the hands, we fail in the most meaningful education of each child.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My father in law, who worked 43 years at the steel plant, was one of the best read and most knowledgeable people I ever knew. That false division between academia and the world of work with the hands causes all sorts of problems.