bicycles for the mind

There's a famous quote from Steve Jobs that goes like this:

What a computer is to me, is it's the most remarkable tool we've ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

Walking is relatively slow and inefficient. Man becomes supercharged with a bicycle, the combination becoming one of the most efficient means of self-powered locomotion in the animal kingdom.

What does a computer do for our minds? Of course, it accelerates our ability to reason about math and logic. But it's limiting to merely interpret this statement through the lens of accelerating what we can already do, rather than enabling completely new experiences.

Analytical bicycles

Taking an analytical perspective on transporation, the path of your journey is fixed, and all that matters is the efficiency of transporting oneself from the origin to the destination.

AB

With its greater efficiency, a bicycle serves to transport along that same path with greater speed.

AB

Indeed, computers do the equivalent of this in inumerable ways. For basic tasks like multiplication or processing of large amounts of data, computers can take something that is cumbersome for our minds to do and do it over and over again with exacting precision and blazing speed.

Creative bicycles

Thinking differently, instead of merely applying our bicycle or computer superpowers to more efficiently get along the same path from A to B, we can use our improved speed to explore areas that were prohibitively time-consuming before.

AB

If you're riding a bike, you might make a little detour before you need to get where you're going. Computers too let us take advantage of that leverage.

It's not that we can just quantitatively do more of what we could do before, it's that with increased efficiency we can afford to spend a more of our time or energy exploring the world around us and learning qualitatively new things. That's an amazing power of computers as a tool: we can leave the rote calculations to the machine, and explore ideas and concepts that would be completely infeasible when using our minds alone!