Adopting a Computer Metaphor

 See Yourself as Your Greatest Technology, Marilyn Ferguson

Many years ago NASA was asked why they put humans in the spacecraft instead of robots. Their answer: “Humans are the lowest cost, light-weight, non-linear, all-purpose computer system that can be mass-produced by unskilled labor.”

And somewhere else I have read that there is no technological device, no matter how sophisticated, that can equal the power, flexibility, creativity and user friendliness of the human mind.  We all possess the world’s finest multi-sensory learning device right behind our eyes. All we have to do is believe it and use it. To see yourself as your greatest technology is to see your mind as your greatest resource.

Adopting a computer metaphor will be helpful here. The software of your computer sends a set of coded instructions to tell it what to look for and what to do; it programs your computer.  Your worldview (your collection of beliefs about life and the universe) is the software that provides operating instructions for your mind the same way your computer is programmed; Someone else programs your computer software; but you program your mind’s software. Your mind is the author of its own software.

We know the computer software needs to be kept up-to-date. Most people make sure their computer software is up-to-date but fail to pay attention to the possible obsolesce of their mind’s eye software. Do you update your beliefs during this corona crisis?

Tor Norretranders, in his 1998 book The User Illusion, says that the way we see things on our computer screen is a user illusion; it is the mental picture the user has of what actually exists. The deployment of icons as metaphors for familiar items on a desktop revolutionized the use of computers. For computer users, icons created the illusion of easy-to-work-with folders, trashcans, calculators, scissors, paste, printers and so forth. No such items actually exist in the computer. What the computer user sees is actually an easy to understand representation of what does exist, millions of sequences of 0’s and 1’s. This illusion makes the computer seem less complicated and intimidating — more user-friendly. Norretranders says that the user illusion is a superb metaphor for human consciousness.

Your mind, like the computer, creates an icon, an easy to understand representation of what exists. The way you see things is the user-friendly illusion you have of reality. This is often helpful, like the user illusion of the computer user. However David Nyberg warned us: “Human self-deception is one of the most impressive software programs ever devised.”

Seeing the sun rise and set is a user illusion (the sun doesn’t move). Throwing things away is a user illusion (there is no such thing as away). Only one of these illusions is harmful. Can you identify some other general or personal user illusions that are helpful or harmful?

Reality is an illusion. Only illusion is real.  Don Quixote



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  1. EUGENE UNGER says:

    Enjoy your latest illusion 🙈Happy holiday to you and Carol .

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Marianne says:

    I’m confused enough these days wondering what day it actually is, what do we do with all this “stuff”, is where we are going for old people or active elders, does my back really hurt? On and on it goes, and now you have interjected the idea that all of these confused thoughts might be illusions of what is actual. Or is actual an illusion?
    This blog is certainly provocative and a little disturbing because if nothing we see or think about is reality but an illusion, then how does one truly know how to make decisions or what to believe. Now you have done it, HB. I’m totally confused. No, maybe I only think I’m confused! ; -)

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