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Our current society is in the middle of a revolution akin to the industrial revolution, where information and the processing of that information through computers has become the backbone of our progress. The computer has changed the way we live, work, and think because computers are vastly superior to humans in both how they process logic and how fast they can do it. So let's take a look at what computer logic is good at, what tasks are best left to the silicon brain in our digital devices.
Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is math. Computers were originally created to do computations and solve complex math problems it would take far too long for the human brain to work through. When you hear people talk about processor clock speed and megahertz, what they're referring to is how many millions of computing cycles a processor can go through in one second. A task like producing the first 1,000 prime numbers would take a modern computer a fraction of a second.
But a human would be at it for a very long time. Computers are also great at sorting, organizing, and finding information, providing the input is correct, of course. I remember as a kid, I would go to the library looking for books. To find what I was looking for, I'd have to dig through a huge card catalog, and I would often have to enlist the help of a librarian just to make sense of it. Today's library visit usually starts with a simple search on a computer, followed seconds later by a trip directly to the right shelf.
Computers excel at anything computational and anything involving large amounts of data. If you're building a website that rates hotels based on accessibility for children, the computer will allow the user to filter what she sees based on whatever taxonomies and factors are associated with each hotel review. Show me all hotels from Italy that are suited for toddlers and have a kid's pool. Show me all hotels in the UK with teen friendly activities that are close to major cities.
This type of sorting involves the computer going through each individual item and matching it with your predefined criteria. What makes the computer the right tool to perform these types of tasks is the speed at which it can go through each item and its ability to accurately identify that item. As either matching the criteria, true, or not matching them, false. If you eliminate the computer and provide a human with the same set of data, the process would take much longer and would also be prone to errors, especially if the criteria include any type of advanced logical operator like if or exclusive or.
Computers are also great at searching through data to find specific items. I once experienced walking into the office of a professor, who had thousands of books and documents stacked, from floor to ceiling. To me, it looked like utter chaos, but to him it was fully organized. When I asked him for a particular document, he walked over to one of the piles, pointed right in the center of it, and pulled out a small stack of papers stapled together. It was exactly what I was looking for, and he was able to find it because he knew exactly where everything was in his office.
He had a map of all his data. Without the map, the data would be complete chaos. And if someone else were to try to find something in that office, he would likely return empty-handed. A computer, on the other hand, could use its brute force processing power to read through every item. Sort and organize it. And produce not only the item you're looking for, but also a new functional map of all the data for future searches all in one single operation. So just like a car motor can do the work on hundreds of horses, so can the computer do the computational work of a hundred or a thousand or a million human minds.
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