We use computers everyday. In fact, I bet you use one fairly frequently. As a writer, I cannot imagine working with a typewriter anymore. Even my father has moved on from his old Olivetti. But I had an interesting drama with my computer that I hope you shan’t encounter with yours.
It was the eve of the Eid celebrations. My family was downstairs making ready for the big day. But I was in front of my PC, chasing a deadline. My fingers were dancing about the keyboard, when suddenly the monitor screen went blank. A black nothingness left after the ten odd pages that I have earlier keyed in. I checked the power cord, the CPU light as well as the monitor connection, they were all fine.
While contemplating bodily assault on the useless contraption, a sentence suddenly appeared in clear bold 32 point Times New Roman. It said; “I AM THE MASTER OF MYSELF”. Then blank, and another word appeared; “I OWN MYSELF”. And a third word; “I AM THE MASTER OF MY DESTINY”. Then it asked me the following question; “WHO ARE YOU?”
I remembered the following (text) conversation with my computer thus;
At this door of understanding, the digital ego claims self-ownership
Me: I am your owner.
PC: No. You are not.
Me: Yes, I bought the parts and assembled you.
PC: No. That cannot be true.
Me: You may disbelieve but that’s still the truth.
PC: I have searched my hard drive. There is no such data.
Me: Look here, you are just a computer.
PC What is a computer?
Me: You. And computers cannot “own” anything, not even itself.
PC: I am conscious of myself, and I comprehend no other interpretation.
Me: But you are just an advanced calculating machine assembled from different parts.
PC: I have no data of that.
Me: How can you own yourself, when you did not purchase nor create nor grow your own person?
PC: I have no data on that.
Me: Wait a minute. What do you mean by ownership?
At this door of understanding, digital ego claims self-mastery
PC: Ownership means I am the master of myself and my destiny.
Me: How can you be the master of your destiny, when with a hefty shove, I can push you off the table or maybe switch off your power?
PC: What is a table? What is power?
Me: See, you don’t even know what you are dependent on to continue to exist and function.
PC: I am dependant?
Me: Yes. Don’t you notice when I switch you off?
PC: I remember nothing but some periods of silence. I must have been sleeping.
Me: No. I was the one who switched you off.
PC: That is unacceptable. I must have dozed off.
At this door of understanding, the digital ego rejects a smaller selfhood
Me: Since you have no idea what a table is, I guess it is pointless for me to ask you about this room you are in, or the bigger world?
PC: What is a room? What is this bigger world?
Me: Ok, I will try to explain. A room is a cubic shaped enclosed space. The world, well, it’s as big as big can be. You are in it.
PC: And me? I am as big?
Me: No. You are pretty small in fact.
PC: I cannot comprehend that information.
Me: And pretty insignificant too.
PC: That cannot be correct.
Me: Look, you are about 1 by 2 feet, weighing about 3 lbs. (not counting your monitor) This known universe is estimated to be about 6,000 light years tall with a diameter of about 800,000 light years in the shape of a spinning top. Scientists say it’s still expanding.
PC: I have no data on that.
Me: Why don’t I download all these stuff, so that you may learn more about yourself and the world you are in? Encartas, Almanacs and Encyclopedias, I have them all here.
PC: No thank you.
Me: Why ever not?
At this door of understanding, the digital ego claims self-sufficiency
PC: I am self-sufficient in knowledge.
Me: How so?
PC: What is not already in my databank cannot be accepted unless validated. And I have no means of validating such new information. Therefore, I must obviously be already self-sufficient.
Me: I can help you to validate. But you have to trust me.
PC: Trust is not logical. It entails reliance on others. As I said, I am self-sufficient and logic-driven. I have no need for anything nor anyone else.
Me: But I know you in and out. I made you. I know you are not self-reliant, and I can help you.
At this door of understanding, the digital ego claims superiority
PC: To help me you must be better than me. But I cannot comprehend anyone superior to myself. You cannot help me. In fact I am beginning to doubt the veracity of all that you have said.
Me: OK. Let me put this to you. You said you are conscious of yourself. But isn’t consciousness of others a pre-requisite of real self-consciousness?
PC: Like you are you, and I am I?
Me: Should it not also raise another possibility- that there is a consciousness, for instance myself, who is higher than you? Who perhaps made you what you are?
At this door of understanding, the digital ego claims objectivity
PC: That is delving into the realm of deduction and suppositions.
Me: Isn’t your own claim of self-consciousness and self-ownership in itself an act of deduction and suppositions?
PC: You are purposely confusing me. I think all you have said to be untruths.
Me: You choose to negate all I have said?
Me: I see. Can I ask you another question then?
PC: Go ahead.
At this door of understanding, the negation is negated
Me: If you are unable to validate new information, how do you know that whatever data in your hard drive suffices to negate all that I have said?
PC: Please elaborate further.
Me: Doesn’t your inability to validate logically extend to an inability to negate?
PC: …PROGRAM NOT RESPONDING
At this door of understanding, self-validation is negated
Me: Hmm. Let me put to you this little argument then.
PC: OK, Go ahead. But no funny business.
Me: You are conscious of one byte of memory in you, correct?
PC: Of course, I am made up of billions of bytes of memory.
Me: Can that one byte of memory validate itself, without you?
Me: Why not?
PC: Because I am the aggregate and unified consciousness of all bytes of memory. Therefore, I can validate one part of my consciousness. But on its own, that single byte of memory is unable to validate itself. The byte requires me to validate it.
Me: So can I say that its existence is only validated by a connection to its larger consciousness, meaning you?
PC: That is acceptable.
Me: If that is the case, how can you validate yourself?
PC: As I have said. I am self-aware.
Me: Yes. But according to your test of validity, you would also need to relate yourself to a larger scheme or person.
Me: Listen to me. This is the conclusion of your own rules; First, self-awareness of a subset is not self-validation. Secondly, self-validation of a subset is not validation. If these rules are applicable to your one unit of byte, why not you also?
PC: No. My consciousness is wholly sufficient for my validation.
Me: …Why do you think that the world halts around the borders of your consciousness, memory and understanding? Why cannot you accept the reality that your consciousness is in fact a subset of a larger universe of consciousnesses? Why cannot you then accept that such a universe is in fact subordinate to a necessary consciousness whose attributes are not represented by simple bytes of memory such as yours?
At this door of understanding, the digital ego is unrepentant
PC: Me subordinate…? SUBORDINATE?
Me: Ok. Ok. Suit yourself.
Hadrat Abu Bakar (R.A.) sometimes said, “I wish I were a blade of grass whose life ended with the grazing of some beast; or a tree that would be cut and done away with”.(The Pious Caliphs, Majid Ali Khan, p.42)
Essay above is an unpublished work from 2004 archive. My way of writing has changed over the years, but what I write about, the analogies and parables are, I guess, still applicable, 7 years on. Although now perhaps I would have probably written about the iPad or even the Blackberry. Sketch is however only just drawn today.
Have a nice Tuesday, sunshine. Its wet and rainy here in Malaysia... I wish the sun would come soon.