CBC Digital Archives

Computers making us think differently

Described as "gigantic brains," computers were once so big they filled entire rooms. It all started with ENIAC, the world's first computer, that cracked and buzzed and weighed 27 tonnes. By the 1960s, ordinary Canadians were fascinated with these new high tech devices: IBMs could set up blind dates, select Christmas presents and mysteriously dispense money. A novel idea until computer technology replaced real people on the job. These days computers continue to revolutionize — this time changing the way people communicate by way of the Internet.

media clip
University of Toronto professor Dr. Arthur Porter says computers are changing the way people think and act. Traditionally, humans perform tasks methodically, completing one step before starting another. With the advent of the computer age, we are now more "mosaic" and he says thought patterns occur in more of an "all-at-oneness sense." It's more common these days to gather information from a variety of disciplines -- criminology, politics, sociology -- to come to a decision.

In this CBC Radio clip, Dr. Porter backs up his point with his famous colleague Marshall McLuhan's theory of "instant information."
• Marshall McLuhan said telephones, television and computers created a society of "instant information." He believed these machines transformed societal thought processes. People were forced to abandon linear thought in order to process instant information provided by these electronic devices.
• He thought the central nervous system adapted by processing in an "all-at-oneness" or "mosaic" way.

• In the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan described the world as a "global village." He believed new high tech gadgets brought people closer together.
• For the first time ever, American television programs broadcast all over the world connecting people who would otherwise not be connected or exposed to one another's cultures.
• Marshall McLuhan talked to the CBC about his global village theory in a 1960 television interview.
Medium: Radio
Program: Agenda
Broadcast Date: July 22, 1967
Guest(s): Dr. Arthur Porter
Interviewer: Bob Cohen
Duration: 3:04

Last updated: January 30, 2013

Page consulted on November 13, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Inventing the Internet Age

From early dreams of global information networks to the dominance of the World Wide Web, netwo...

Meet the Macintosh

On Jan. 24, 1984, a new computer company called Apple shook up the world of personal computers...

Computer Invasion: A History of Automation in...

Described as "gigantic brains," computers were once so big they filled entire rooms. It all st...

Marshall McLuhan, the Man and his Message

He was a man of idioms and idiosyncrasies, deeply intelligent and a soothsayer. He had prescie...

India: Trading the sari for the short skirt

In the new India, young middle-class women reject traditional dress and arranged marriages.

Universal surveillance

Since Sept. 11, 2001, citizens are on camera 24/7 in the name of stopping terrorism.