I have been programming daily for 46 years, which goes back to the punch card era.
I have always avoided working in the military area, which has most of the interesting projects, but rarely improves human life. Computers have been used to grease the wheels of commerce, and their inherent honesty has greatly improved human life. However, when a dishonest person uses a computer for evil purposes, like Bernie Madoff, then it amplifies evil. The prevalence of computer viruses is another great negative.
Unfortunately the negative uses of computers, to spy on individuals, and to permit governments to achieve ridiculous heights of intrusion and money extraction, is cancelling out many of the early benefits, and we are now in an era where local governments are using computers to punish the lowest strata of our society, and if you have studied markov modeling, i can show you my model of homelessness generation, whereby local governments have created a system that generates homelessness to such a degree that we are now surrounded by a beggar class, previously only seen in Indian cities. The escalation of a parking ticket from $35 to $450 in 30 days, and the $200/day after-tow storage charges are devastating the bottom segment, all driven by computers.
The increase of regulations has made it far more favorable to be a gigantic bank that can service the hyper-complex regulations, and the net result is that banking has been consolidated into loathsome, unresponsive, inefficient mega corporations, that are so far from A.P. Giannini’s philosophy that he is turning in his grave.
At this point, only an effort at simplification can help our society. Norbert Wiener wrote a pretty good book a long time ago, called “the Human use of Human Beings”, where he covered some of these topics. He was a very clever man, and a pioneer in what they called back then “Cybernetics”, which we now call “Artificial Intelligence” or “Machine learning”.
For example, all the wage taxes and regulations, including the staggeringly stupid higher minimum wages, all have unintended consequences. In Marin county, all of the jobs that teenagers used to be hired to do (work at the corner grocery store), were taken by 30 year old highly responsible illegal aliens. The unintended consequence was that Marin county teenagers never learned how to work. A very high minimum wage will have the effect of eliminating all young labor. Young workers are goof-offs, sloppy, and unreliable many times. But they need training, and many people learn a lot from their early jobs. If we have only high wage jobs, people will avoid hiring someone. The drive to higher minimum wages will result in higher teenage unemployment, and continue to exacerbate urban poverty. We as a society need to allow people who aren’t worth much to have a job and earn some money. In Japan they have their 90 year olds watering the sidewalk. No, the sidewalk doesn’t need watering, but they do it because it is a job, and it gives them dignity.
The great weakness of a computer is that it has no compassion, and cannot tell when it is time to relax the rules.