It lied to me. My computer. Don’t get me wrong; I know all about trying to save face. I also know my laptop pretty well by now. It was running slow, taking lots of time to think over fairly simple requests. A lull in my frantic mental activity led to the opportunity for me to initiate a reboot. When it winked open its electronic eye my screen told me it had restarted to install an update. Untrue. I had told it to restart. I gave the shutdown order to help with the obvious sluggishness that suggested to this Luddite brain of mine that my silicon friend was working on an update. There’s no arguing with it, however. In its mechanical mind, it decide to do the restart itself. I was merely a bystander.
Technology and I argue often. Like JC says, though, authority always wins. I should know my place by now. I’ve read enough about neuroscience (with thanks to those who write for a general audience) to know that this is incredibly human behavior. We are creatures of story, and if our brains can’t figure out why we’ve done something they will make up an answer. We have trouble believing that we just don’t know. I suppose that will always be a difference between artificial intelligence and the real thing. Our way of thinking is often pseudo-rational. We evolved to get by but machines have been designed intelligently. That often makes me wonder about the “intelligent design” crowd—they admit evolution, but with God driving it. Why’d our brains, in such circumstances, evolve the capacity for story instead of for fact?
As my regular readers know, I enjoy fiction. Fiction is the epitome of the story-crafting art. Some analysts suggest our entire mental process involves construing the story of ourselves. Those who articulate it well are rewarded with the sobriquet of “author.” The rest of us, however, aren’t exactly amateurs either. Our brains are making up reasons for what we do, even when we do irrational things (perhaps like reading this blog sometimes). Stories give our lives a sense of continuity, of history. What originally developed as a way of remembering important facts—good food sources, places to avoid because predators lurk there—became histories. Stories. And when the facts don’t align, we interpolate. It seems that my laptop was doing the same thing. Perhaps it’s time to reboot.