A CRITICAL difference is one which changes the whole estimation of the scene about which one is thinking or analyzing or evaluating.
CRITICAL DIFFERENCE ONE: Speed
While computers look very fast they are painfully, deathly slow. Their apparent speed in their electronic bustling between RAM and video is a comparative impression: it comes from comparing the visual response of the computer to the speed of lifeless matter.
In fact a small insect evaluates faster than a computer, and in some cases better.
CRITICAL DIFFERENCE TWO: Intention
The intention of a computer, as of any matter particle, is to ultimately collapse, decay, return to dust, entropize to the nth degree. That the computer is forced into doing otherwise by volts of energy being plugged into its backside is well and good. But to say that it has any other intentionality is like saying that a chain ganger is where he is because he intends to wear chains and make little ‘uns out of big ‘uns: what would he do if he had a choice, Luke?
The intention of a man or woman assessing ANY information at all is to understand, at some level. Even the most rabid self-right and others-wrong computation has a glimmer in it of desired understanding. At the top end the intent to Understand is enough to shake mountains and divert lifetimes from their course. But it exists nowhere in any "system" no matter how much sand was melted to make the chip, or how rare the earth from which it was made.
CRITICAL DIFFERENCE THREE: Quality
A being assesses on qualities first, not on amounts of things. That there is a lot or a little of something is secondary to him, after what it means in terms of the quality of the thing he is observing, whether it is a scene of family tension, an earthquake in Peru or a sale at Macy's. This is essentially because in the final analysis what a being IS is a quality, not an amount of a somethingness. He exists first OUTSIDE and at the source of all possible mathematics. This being his basic nature it is only when he has wandered fairly far afield that he starts to assign primacy to quantities in his thought. He uses numbers to assess how something feels, true. But quantities are not his primary medium although he can be incredibly precise with them.
A computer has no perception of quality whatsoever. It never will, although it is conceivable that a biological computer might react to qualities of some sort. In its nature it is numerical if it has any nature at all.
CRITICAL DIFFERENCE FOUR: Being
The one thing that a computer cannot do is be there. The stuff of it is such that it has long since abandoned any aspirations toward existing at all. It is below what humans experience as unexistance, even. Compared to even the most degraded being it is so far at the bottom of the well as to be undetectable as a source of being.
Even a nerd, on the other hand, is busy being what he is being. It reflects in every position and keystroke he makes. It so part of him that the casual observer can easily overlook it and assume some sort of similarity between the machine on the desktop and the machine at the keyboard. But they are categorically and irreversibly different on this one point alone: one is being there and the other is not.
Failing to notice these differences has produced a vocabulary in computer technology that mimics, however shabbily, the fine language man has evolved to examine thought itself with. Computer people say that the machine doesn't 'understand' certain commands or 'looks for' a file or 'answers' a question. This is gobbledygook of the most insidious sort, reminiscent of the Red's black PR language: they used words like 'democracy' to cover up the most fascistic maneuvers, and 'liberation' was used to describe enslavement, for ready examples. The NewSpeak-ese of these 'wonderful' technologies is insidious because it completely collapses a live field with a viciously electro-mechanical one. To the unsuspecting, communication -- the living art and the pulse and breath of live existence -- becomes collapsed with E-mail and raster scans. Thus the highest quality of awareness are parodied into the junkyard of decayed mechanics.
This is not new. It has been going on since before the iron horse, and is simply one of the environmental hazards of living in human society. Like AIDS it is something against which one simply guards well, and goes on with his life.
But not to recognize it is to risk extreme prejudice of the very quick of the living heart. And when that goes, the lights go out. Not only in the individual but in his families, his circles of friendship, his society of kind, and ultimately even his symbiotes.
So, should you buy a computer? Absolutely. But don't start talking to it.