Are we just computers?

Are we just computers?

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I often wonder how thick the user manual would be if one was issued with every person. Face it, it would be huge but then would we even both to read it. Like everything else we would just sign for it and tick the box saying we have read and agree with the terms and conditions. But unfortunately it does not exist, so when it starts playing up we do not even have a helpdesk number to ring. Even better wouldn’t it be nice if it came with a lifetime guarantee, free replacement model if the other one gets lost or damaged.

The trouble is whilst we all share the same kind of hardware (okay some are Apples and some are Windows, I’ll let you fight over which sex is which), but our software is all different. People often get upset with me when I compare us humans with thinking machines. Being realistic though what is the actual difference? We are born with a set of preset functions that control our hardware and a few survival instincts from our days in the trees but from then on we learn. We absorb information at a phenomenal rate, we unlike our computer counterparts have all these senses that help us gather this information.

Now I can see you already shaking your heads, what about the nature v nurture debate, what about the bits we get from mum and dad (egg and sperm) the good old DNA? Well yes we are given certain individualization at birth, I do believe this but think in terms if you were to be allowed to personalise your computer whilst being made? What if to make the program or basic operating system they used some of the code from each of you. Your new computer is now yours, you have put your stamp on it and made it individual. What happens next though is down to data absorbtion.

From that first breath we start to learn, we see, hear, touch and taste. We learn by instruction, green is green and hot is hot. sweet and sour and the tone of voices we learn to file this information away and expand upon it. We learn temperature, from frozen cold to burning hot, I am pretty sure everyone has burned themself at some point in their life. That is learning by example, and your body has a survival instinct for it, put your hand under a tap and let it get warmer at what point do you instinctively remove your hand? I do not know but I would imagine that while some are more able than others (I’m a wuss and hate hot water) we will all pull back at a certain range. Not all is learned from example though, some things we take on trust. We are told the surface temperature of the sun is 5500 degrees centigrade so we know it would be an instant sun tan.

Computers also know about temperature, most are programmed with an operational range which if they go outside of they will shut down to protect themselves. If it detects a temperature too hot it goes into survival mode and irrespective of how important your spreadsheet is, it will shut down. I can also be told the temperature of the sun, trust me I just asked Siri. So the more you look at it the difference diminishes. Yes, I know you are all shouting at the screen now, such blasphemy we are more than just data, we have emotions, we can choose what be believe, we can choose what we do. Right, put down your placards and think. What do you have that you have not learned? Did you learn emotions? Or did you learn how to manage emotions? To the greater degree do we not all have the same emotional range, some may manage emotions better or worse than others but we all have them.

Take fear for example, we all know it and I imagine we have all felt it to a degree. Spiders, how many of you don’t like spiders?. I don’t mind spiders but I live in the UK, if I was to do to Australia I think I would have a different feeling on finding one on the bedroom wall. Here I pick them up and put them outside, in Australia I think it would be splat first and ask questions later. Why? Because I have watched Discovery channel and know that Australia is rife with killer everything! I have learned rightly or wrongly that most spiders down there are killers so I would probably be more inclined to feel fear than I do at home.

This is a learned conditioned response to information received and processed. Just like I know that putting my hand in boiling water is going to hurt, or listening to certain music will change my mood. We as humans are full of information we have learned, either by trial and error or taken on faith. In school we are all taught the same kind of maths, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division but do we all process that information the same way? No we all probably use one of several methods of achieving the end result. Ha, you say that blows your computer idea! Not really, if my computer spent its maths lessons poking the girls in front of me with a ruler instead of paying attention it also might struggle.

This is the crucial bit, why did I chose not to pay attention? Why did I not absorb the finer points of trigonometry and algebra? Well even by the early teens I had learned a lot of information, I had been molded by all that I had absorbed. I had already had years of practice at receiving information and adding it to my expanding database, tying this information to similar information, allocating emotional instincts to it and behaving in a certain way. If I was to program my computer along the lines of what I believe, would it do the same as yours?. Earlier I said that green is green but what is your green? In the spectrum of greenness would you chose the same shade as me?.

This whole business of what we had to start and what we do with the information we gain every second after is the foundation of what we are. Our beliefs, our way of dealing with the information of life is our uniqueness. The reason computers are not like us is because A) they do not absorb information B) they work on logic. Teach a computer to absorb information like we do and then let it make illogical choices depending on emotions and expect it to not turn on till after midday and even then it will probably just sulk and demand to play minecraft.

So seven billion people on one temperate planet all making decisions based on what they feel is best. Processing information the best they can within the guidelines they have learned and all the while being guided by emotion. We wonder why we can all feel different, why some of us suffer mentally and yet when you consider that from that first breath we are just trying to cope with the information overload that is life, is it any wonder that we get things wrong. Download the wrong thing to your computer and sooner or later it will cause problems. Maybe not right away but down the line you try to do something else and it causes a conflict. So we click the help function and try to work it out, or we take it to the store and let the wizz kid sort it out.

We might even say “sod it, I’ll just get a new one”, but that doesn’t work for us humans. We can’t just get a new mind or body. We can take it to the shop and let an expert have a look at it but you have to let the expert poke and prod you to find the wrong bit of code. Can you even remember it? Can you remember all you have downloaded and processed? Would you even give up the information if you knew it? You probably wouldn’t admit to the wizz kid in the store that you might have looked at a website that you are embarrassed about (honest the Justin Beaber website just popped up) so why would you tell a Doctor that you once had a traumatic experience? In fact would you even know that the event in question was the problem, or would you tell him that it was what you felt at the time.

People are always telling me that the medical professions answer to our problems are medication, this is true, go to your GP and tell him your symptoms and he will prescribe medication to help cope with those symptoms. Just like the wizz kid offering to put a patch in to resolve the problem, not fix it, just make it work again for a while. The next step though is a decision, look for the true problem or cope with the patch. Getting the real computer genius to find and fix the problem costs time and money, getting to the root of your problem also takes time and costs money. Problem is unless you go private the NHS has very little of both, even if you go private it may still take time.

Self help is a big buzz word, kind of like letting a recovery wizard loose on your computer. However your computer has been pre programmed to look for problems, you however have not. You might try to find others who have had a similar problem, learn how they coped with it. Put an enquiry on a forum and see what feedback you get, try a bit of this and a bit of that and see if it helps. Use the time the “patch” gives you to learn and try to fix it yourself. It will be frustrating and painful, you will want to give up. Give up though and be dependant on the patch, or just live with what function you have left. Learn to know what not to do so you can still have some form functionality, soon you will adjust.

You only have one life, you might not be able to sort out all your problems but never give up hope that you can. Many of us can be fixed, not by medication but by facing that which is wrong. No one is guilty, we are all victims to circumstance. Reach out and find others, learn from them, learn from any help you get. Fear not being judged, the right people never judge, they understand. Find someone you can relate to, find many you can feel comfortable with. Do not worry if this is from a keyboard or in person, you are not alone. You may have travelled a unique path which has led you to now, but others have trod a similar path. We do not come with a manual, you have to look for those who have had similar and be guided. Most importantly offer up your experience to help others, and if one day you manage to fix your problem, share it. Do not leave those who still are sat there clueless and frustrated alone, become the computer expert and help.

If you need help:

www.patient.org has a lot of information and a good forum as does www.anxietyunited.co.uk

Also the charities Mind and Sane are very good places to find information

The NHS Choices website has a wealth of information and on social media you can find like-minded people by just searching the hashtags #mentalhealth #mhcommunity or #mhfriends

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