Friday, 29 January 2010

Soap Opera Much?

I'm reading a psychology article at the moment about thought and language and intelligence, and its talking about the computer metaphor for the human mind.

Before computers existed, terms like "believe", "know", "think", "talk" and so on were not considered to be scientific terms, but mentalistic. People who wanted psychology to be a serious science tried to stop using these terms when describing how people work - this is how the behaviourist model came about. When this went out of vogue, it was the ghost-in-the-machine idea which was popular again, but there were still difficulties with this.

However, when computers came about, everything changed. According the article, computers are "fairy-free, fully exorcised hunks of metal that could not be explained with out the full lexicon of mentalistic taboo words."

For example:

"Why isn't my computer printing?"

"Because the program doesn't know you replaced your dot-matrix printer with a laser printer. It still thinks it is talking to the dot-matrix and is trying to print the document by asking the printer to acknowledge its message. But the printer doesn't understand the message: it's ignoring it because it expects its input to begin with '%'!"

Pinker says "the more complex the system and the more expert the users, the more their tecnhical conversation sounds like the plot of a soap opera."

For example:

"Why did Mary stop talking to me?"

"Because Mary doesn't know that you changed your phone number. She thinks she's talking to you and is trying to do this by asking you to apologise. But she doesn't understand why you aren't apologising now: she's ignoring you because she expects you to say your sorry!"

Well, it made me smile!

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