I know why computers fail

Computers, as I understand, operate on a simple system: on/off. In numbers it's called the binary system: 0, 1 and nothing else.

In language this opposition is found in yes/no. You might think that the simplest possible communication would be yes/no. "Would you like some tea?" "Yes" or "no." "Will we have our lesson next week?" "Yes" or "no."

But in daily life, the yes/no distinction is constantly blurred, changed and misunderstood. Example: "I ask my husband if I can move the liquid soap from the bathroom to the kitchen. "Yes" or "no." Instead, he tells me a long story about how he uses the soap--which doesn't answer the question, as he could use the soap in the kitchen or the bathroom.

Example: "I can't teach your lesson next week" is heard as "I can teach your lesson next week." Even if I enunciate and say "I cannot teach your lesson next week," my student may hear the opposite.

Why? Because we hear, in large part, what we we expect to hear. Even in our native language, we don't hear and fully understand every word that's said to us (because of the speaker's  poor enunciation, or our own mental tiredness), so our mind constructs possible words to fill the gaps. The possible words are what we expect or want to hear, or what is "usual" to say in that context.

I find myself laboring to make my meaning clear, as I know from experience that there will be misunderstanding no matter what is said. So yes/no, while seeming simple, is full of landmines.

Back to the computer--it is making a yes/no decision every nanosecond. It must get very tired! I believe that one way to understand what's happening when your computer "freezes" or goes into an endless loop is that it just needs a break from all those on/off, 0/1 communications.


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