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Computer rules applied to the real world...

Hey, folks. Over the weekend I was going through some old columns I enjoyed and I thought there were a few here on OT that would appreciate this as well. (FYI...Jon Carroll has a recurring column in The San Francisco Chronicle.)

I really love the idea of right-clicking to create a new off-ramp or to take back something we shouldn't have said.

Have a great week...

Jon Carroll

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We live in a left-click universe. We see the bedroom, we click on the bedroom icon in our brain, we walk into the bedroom. We see the on-ramp to San Francisco, we click on the on-ramp icon in our brain, and we drive onto the freeway. We see our sweeties looking pensive and devastating, and we click on the sweetie icon in our brain, and we advance toward our sweeties with purpose in our eyes.

Sometimes the system crashes, and we advance toward someone else's sweetie, but then we get the dialogue box from our real sweeties: "End relationship now? Yes. No." and we come to our senses -- or we don't, and we get the "fatal error" message, with the red X and the "clunk" sound, and then we are living in apartments with plastic furniture and vermin in the walls.

Our brains work the way our computers work because we made the computers. If the interfaces were at least marginally intuitive, they'd be worthless. Our brains do not crash as often as our computers do; on the other hand, our brains cannot retrieve the primary exports of Albania in .033 seconds.

Sometimes the two worlds overlap. Back in the '90s, I had a tiny problem with the game Myst and its successor, Riven. I played it to the exclusion of my duties as a human idea. I would start playing it at noon and look up 15 minutes later and it was dark outside. Total eclipse? No, addictive behavior. I wasn't much on the fast twitch games, but Myst waited until your brain figured out the puzzle. It did not taunt you. I like that in a game.

When I re-entered the real world from the Myst world, I noticed that my forefinger would still twitch. I'd see a manhole cover. "I wonder what's under that manhole cover," I would think, and my finger would jerk spasmodically. "Let's go in the building!" Twitch twitch, no, walk walk. Right. Real world.

I have often wondered whether the basic rules of computer repair might be usefully applied to human beings. The first rule is: Turn it off and turn it back on again; whatever is wrong will probably no longer be wrong. Going to sleep is sort of like turning your brain off, and it does work wonders. The problem may not go away, but the solution is likely to appear.

The second rule of computer repair is: Jiggle some wires around. I wonder if that could be a good new method of brain surgery. Don't cut anything or graft anything; just jiggle stuff around, close the patient up and see what happens. It's not very scientific, but computers are large machines that would appear to require scientific analysis, and yet "jiggle some wires around" is sometimes all it takes.

The third rule of computer repair is: Never ask why. If something good happens, accept that it has happened and move on. Not a bad rule for life either. "Deserving" doesn't come into it; who knows whether your computer deserved to be fixed. Who knows whether you deserve that new job. Say "thank you" and move on. Courtesy always helps -- although not with computers.

So we live in a left-click universe, and what we need is a right-click button. We could figure this whole thing out if we had a right-click button. Say you are at the on-ramp to the freeway, and you can see the traffic jam already starting. Right click on the on-ramp and select "Create shortcut." Already you want to live in the right-click universe.

Suppose you are somewhere you should not be, and you hear a step on the stairs, and you desperately want to be somewhere else. In the left-click universe, your only choice would be to hide in the closet and pray. In the right-click universe, you could "Open link to new window." Then you jump out the new window! Genius!

Or suppose you said something you should not have said. Right click, hit "rewind" and try it again from the top. On the other hand, if you really like what's happening, right click, select "loop" and you can do it forever. If you're not happy with your home, right click, select "quality" and click on "a lot better."

Or suppose you are out in nature, and you have walked to the top of the hill and gazed over the fabulous expanse of landscape, the fields golden in the setting sun, the sky overflowing with purple and red, and you wonder if anything could be more perfect, and you wish you could see this same view forever. Right click, select "set as wallpaper," and voila!

This is your brain. This is your brain
on a cord connected to

a doohickey

that can,

to be frank, perform miracles.

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy; its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. (Winston Churchill)
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