David Halliday wrote:
“Computers can’t do anything humans can’t do. Computers can’t think. Computers can’t create. What computers can do is some of what humans can do only faster.”
[My response:] In my experience, computers can do many things humans cannot do. As just one example, when I studied artificial intelligence theory, algorithms, and systems, it was eye-opening to discover that a properly programmed computer can do “things” that humans just cannot do. There appears to be a limit to the amount of information a human (even great humans) can assimilate, process, and keep account of. Computers can do this far better. There are also documented examples of, for example, neural network algorithms that *learn* from mistakes, from partial successes, and deduce rules or answers that have eluded even the most experienced and smartest humans.
There are also relationship-discovery algorithms, aka data mining, that explore vast reams of data and reveal insights that humans have never before discovered.
In the field of computerized advanced process control, well, let’s just say that many of us are very glad humans are not at the controls, but instead let the computers do the work. Fly-by-wire is just one example of this, wherein advanced aircraft fly in or near the unstable regime, a regime where human responses and anticipation just cannot adequately respond.
John Galt – re is Fortran still in use? [This in response to John Galt, a programmer with some experience, who evidently doubts Fortran is in use due to its creaky age and inadequacies. True, it is not too good at writing code for internet applications. But for engineering applications, it has few if any peers. IMHO.]
Absolutely. Operating companies have millions of lines of code written in Fortran, that works and works quite well every day. No one in the private sector has the time or budget to rewrite perfectly good code just to bring it up to some newly-written standard. Those new standards change every few years, and rewriting would be a complete waste of effort. There may be some limited instances where this is done, but it must have a justifiable positive influence on the financial bottom line.
[This is based on my experience and knowledge of oil and chemical companies, and the process models and process control software that we wrote in the 60's 70's and 80's. It was Fortran 72 and Fortran 77 for most of my time writing this code. Some of it was later used as black-box subroutines called by other languages, such as GUIs (graphical user interfaces) for simulators and training software.]
[David Halliday responds:]