Friday, June 19, 2009

Using Computers as a Metaphor to Meditate on What Comprises Human Life

Computers process things. That is, they operate by solving complex mathematical problems that are perceived by humans as instantaneous and absolute.

The computing process is one of those things that most people don't understand. Windows and Mac operating systems function the way they do so that consumers don't have to understand it. However, it's this disregard for “the process” that computers and robots essentially contain, a total non-understanding of what it means or how it feels to go from point A to point B, that we humans can extract and reflect on ourselves as having little in common: we humans have value only in this process. In complete opposition to the computer, our perception of existence lies in the organic code of our lives that make us function from { birth to death } .

For while computers eschew the process and only strive for, understand and present the answer, human worth lies in the substance of our operations. To computers, there is no feeling for the "how" or "why" the electricity passes through the silicon nodes and channels. To humans, that's all there is.

We humans continually consider and perceive the process that precedes a final result. We are able to walk to the store for the goal of a gallon of milk and enjoy the color of the brick we see on the way. We can take pleasure in the creative process before a work is complete. We can even evaluate the ethics of a means to an end as justified or not. Computers do not put value on this process. They have no in-between awareness or appreciation, merely discrete steps of 1 or 0, boolean values of 'true' or 'false.'

Our entire life, thought of as a function that has a question and a solution- an open bracket at birth and a closed bracket at death with a bunch of stuff in between- can be thought of as a process. In this way, human processing is what it means to be human, alive, conscious. If we didn't celebrate our processes, our lives would feel as instantaneous and banal as determining the pixel placement of these letters on this screen. Instead, we can create the value of what the pixels mean.

Perhaps our whole awareness of a processes happening is what qualifies life itself. That we can appreciate the stuff between the brackets rather than use it as a means to calculate our code is unique to the human condition. It is the “life stuff” that makes it all worth it. It is what allows us to understand ourselves in a spiral of neon time.

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