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  • Machines need Discipline

    I've often heard of people 'humanizing' their machines. Ships and cars usually end up with the feminine pronoun 'she', while some other items, such as laptops and vibrators, become 'he's'. In the latter case, I guess that would seem appropriate.

    But one thing I know for certain. Talking gently and coaxing a machine will not cause it to repair itself. Neither will threats or intimidation. When a machine is broken, it needs to be repaired. Not an act of love or kindness, but simply performing an analysis of the problem to determine the broken part and then either replacing that part or correcting the function in some manner. In the case of a computer, be it portable or fixed position, it may be either hardware or software.

    But one constant remains. In almost every circumstance, the problem usually originates in human error. And that leads me to the following conclusion: the reason we humanize a machine is so we have someone to blame other than ourselves.

    Isn't that curious? We try to teach our children to be responsible for their actions, but at the same time give them an 'out' if something goes wrong. For instance, say a teenager is preparing a paper for his class the next day and the computer stops working. Now, instead of saying “My dog ate my homework.” or “It was in my pants pocket and my mom washed it.”, he or she can simply blame the computer. Not an excuse most teachers will accept, since it is in the same category as the first two, but at least a poor excuse is better than none, and the child accepts none of the blame. So when they receive a less than satisfactory grade, they can now blame the computer.

    Ridiculous, isn't it. But it is the nature of the beast, I guess. Often when we are confronted with a problem we should have taken care of before it started, our first reaction is to think of someone or something else to blame. The mortgage market crashed, so it must be the fault of those bankers who made the cheap mortgages available and not the people who took out massive loans far above their ability to pay. The Federal Reserve has mismanaged America's wealth, so it must be the fault of the people who appointed the Chairman of the Reserve, and not the people who elected them into office in the first place.

    Kinda makes you think, doesn't it?


    Original background music and picture by Frederick E. Smith.
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