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Computers and the World Cultures

Computer technology is bursting out of the industrially advanced nations and beginning to cover the entire globe. Japan, the United States, and European countries are entering now a major competition to make computers that will capture the world market in the coming decades. Will these computers serve the needs of people or will they undermine what we hold most dear? Thoughtful men, in the smaller countries of Europe as well as otherwheres, fear the computer revolution as a carrier of intellectual and cultural colonialism.If the world is more than a marketplace, we need to think deeply and act vigorously to advance the adaptation of intelligent technologies to forms which will be culturally congenial.

The richness of humanity is the diversity of its cultures, but now as never before the destructive power of modern technology makes it necessary that we all recognize we are many peoples of one world. Complementing the rich cultural diversity of our traditions, the growth of a common, scientific knowledge inspires the hope that we may achieve and share a secondary culture of ideas. Computers, which can help represent explicitly the best ideasof modern science, can aid in the diffusion of such powerful ideas to create a popular, secondary, scientific culture.

The central representations of modern science are "ways of looking at the world." They are equally useful to children and adults. Simplified computer models of the everyday world, computer microworlds, can help people understand and learn; they provide a toy to tinker with, from which to learn a scientific view of "what's what" and "how it all fits together."More advanced computer facilities provide tools for more advanced work. Computer microworlds are popular in a specific sense: they do not train anybody to do any job, even though playing with them provides a sufficient orientation for a more purposeful training to follow. In this specific sense,they are suitable for the introduction of inexperienced people to the possibilities of modern technology.

XEW, the Wolof Language Village Microworld
See the page "Computers and Literacy in Traditional Languages".

Publication notes:

  • Written in 1983. Unpublished directly. This page is an extract from the longer document, "Computers and the World Cultures".

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