How the Computer Helps Us Understand the World

Our minds are what make us uniquely human, and the most successful animal in the world. We can understand the world, as no other species can.

The Computer expands our minds in these ways:


Abstraction is the act of perceiving an entity from a narrow perspective. For example, in the context of education a person can be reduced to a student, and in the context of employment a person can be reduced to an employee. Each abstraction reduces the attributes of a person to a subset of relevant information.


Encapsulation is a technique that encourages abstraction by purposefully hiding information. For example, the mechanical details of a car engine are encapsulated behind a steering wheel and floor pedals. Anyone familiar with this interface could drive a car without knowing what type of engine was under the hood.


Polymorphism is a technique that encourages abstraction by allowing an entity to assume multiple forms.For example, a smartphone is polymorphic because it can assume the role of a camera, web browser, music player, or digital clock. Each application exposes a relevant interface to the user.


Mutability refers to the ability of an entity to change its state. An iPod is an example of a mutable entity because its contents frequently change. A vinyl record is an example of an immutable entity because its contents are permanently engraved.


Coupling refers to the level of dependency that exists between two entities. A husband and wife, for example, should be tightly coupled. Casual friends are loosely coupled.


Cohesion refers to an entity’s level of focus.A specialist is tightly focused on his speciality – and he has a high cohesion with it.   A generalist knows more things, but does not have as high level of cohesion with each subject.

I got much (but not all) of the above from Java Interview Guide. The material here will apply to any computer language (such as Java) or operating system (such as Windows).

I wanted to so show how the Computer has expanded our minds – and will be useful for the people whose minds can be expanded. Perhaps 20 percent of the population.

You can add to it, based on your own experience.


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