30 No. 5
From the Editor
The feature “Computers in Clinical Laboratories” published in this issue (p. 5 in print) caught my attention because of the underlying generalities of the challenges presented. The issues related to IT are numerous, but the key problems are basically how to design, develop, and implement a computer system that best serves its users.
“Best serves its users” is, in my view, the most challenging aspect. I am pretty sure we all have experienced that moment when using some software when we wondered why would someone want to do that? You know what I am talking about, “that” function tucked under the third drop-down menu under “advance.” Maybe I don’t get it and as a consequence ignore these functions, acknowledging that there are other users with other needs. It seems that most of us have to make compromises between what is readily available and what we want to accomplish. Ideally, as systems are further upgraded—hopefully in the spirit of best serving the users—the number of compromises shall decrease and our ability to use and exploit those systems become optimal.
The feature ends with a quote that sticks with me: “The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers,” by Sydney J. Harris. What would Harris (1917–1986), a British-born U.S. journalist, think of IT today and of the progress and changes we have experienced over the last two decades?
I believe that it is essential that we keep thinking as “humans” and that we do not lose our logic and intuition. As computer users, we all have had experiences with new systems and software, and in the course of learning them have come to understand the logic by which the systems were developed. That does not make us think like computers, but only able us to understand how the concepts presented are related to each other, and how overall the system works for us.
Do I wish some days that my computer understood me better? Yes I do, but that is not to say that I wish my computer will ever think like me!
Cover photo: A plastic organic transistor that can operate under water and detect trace amounts of organic polluting chemicals. Image courtesy of Zhenan Bao, Stanford University. See related feature “Creativity in Applied Polymer Science."
last modified 23 September 2008.
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