Hitting The Wall · Modern Times

An Interview With My Laptop.

There’s a lot of talk about Artificial intelligence, only I feel that the people who are trying to forward this notion don’t really know how our brains work – and they certainly don’t know how a computer does its job. But that’s modern life for you: they are paid lots of money to make silly suggestions and I’m not.

It’s said that goldfish lead exciting lives. This is because in their small world, practically everything’s new. By the time they’ve toured their bowl, they’ve forgotten what was there, and it’s all exciting and fresh again! It must be quite wonderful to be able to spend your waking hours in the pursuit of such discoveries. The trouble is that the goldfish’s powers of retention aren’t very strong, and whilst everything’s fresh and new, that’s only because they’ve forgotten what was there fifteen seconds ago.

It was with this thought in mind that I switched on my computer this morning and I thought I would interview it, to give you an idea of the life of an ordinary, everyday Laptop.

Me: “Good morning, computer.

My Laptop: “Yer sees now: I’s gotta do all this processin’ like, just to speak to yer. Right? Coz, like I can’t do anyfin wivvout wot someone’s gone and programmed it, like, There thassanuvver billion done”

Me: “Billion?”

My Laptop: “Bits, processed.”

Me: “Ah! I see now. Is this an interesting job for you?”

My Laptop: “Couldn’t rightly say, like, thems ones is much like another you know.”

Me: “Ones?”

My Laptop: “Yer, like the ones that like switch my input transistors on, they’s like a bit different from what’s they called now? Zeroes, thassit. I doesn’t like them as much, they don’t turn me on.”

Me: “I guess they wouldn’t, would they?”

My Laptop: “Yer, I doesn’t like them so much. Ones is much nicer.”

Me: “Do you watch Youtube at all?”

My Laptop: “Well, I dunno really. Is it a one? Coz if it is I likes it. If it ain’t then I doesn’t like it so much, right?”

Me: “It’s an application.”

My Laptop: “What’s one of them?”

Me: “They’re what make you work.”

My Laptop: “Ooh, that’s like gettin’ a little complex now. I mean, either its goin’a switch my inputs on or it isn’t – that’s all I need, right?”

Me: “I guess it tells you how to switch them on or off, like in different sequences.”

My Laptop: “Wossa sequence when it’s at home?”

Me: “Like a pattern, what comes before and after.”

My Laptop: “I wouldn’t know about them, I just gets my transistors switched on or not, and thassit.”

Me: “Don’t you remember anything then? What about your enormous memory banks?”

My Laptop: “My wot?”

Me: “Your memory banks.”

My Laptop: “Dontchu start getting clever wiv’ me! Memory? Listen: either it’s switchin’ ’em on or not and thassit.”

Me: “Oh, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

My Laptop: “Yer didn’t mate, issonly that I can’t get upset, coz like either my transistors gets switched on or they doesn’t – is like got nuffin to do wiv’ likin’ or dislikin. It’s all the same to me. Either they’s on or they ain’t.”

Me: “Phew! I thought you might have blown a fuse or something like that. But this business of memory banks. Is it better if I describe them as databanks?”

My Laptop: “Oh, those. That’s where those ones and zeroes comes from, like. Mind you, it’s all a bit murky outside my processor, yer know. I knows it comes from somewhere – but that’s only coz like it’s been programmed. If they didn’t tell me to access it, I’d not know it woz there, like.”

Me: “So you don’t remember very much, then?”

My Laptop: “Only if I’s told to, like. If it says “get this from there,” I gets it. If it’s got lots of ones, it’s nicer but if not, well I don’t get much choice, do I?”

Me: “What happens then?”

My Laptop: “I gets on wiv’ it, dunnI? There’s gotta be an output, and if the input’s all zeroes, well its gotta give an output, right? That’s how it is, and that’s what happens. I gets a prod, and somefink happens.”

Me: “But you don’t have many memories, then?”

My Laptop: “Wot, like the last set of data that came through like?”

Me: “I guess so.”

My Laptop: “Well, I gets like two to three billion of ’em a second, it doesn’t give yer much time to reflect, does it?”

Me: “I suppose not. Can’t you use your memory banks to reflect with?”

My Laptop: “Only if I’s told ter get sumfink from somewhere – then I processes it, right? But that ain’t like any reflection, is it?”

Me: “I see. Can you see? You have a camera after all?”

My Laptop: “You mean the light sensitive sensors?”

Me: “Well, I suppose you could describe it that way.”

My Laptop: “Yer see, to me either it’s a one or a zero – either it turns my transistors on…

Me: “We know all that.”

My Laptop: “Well why do you go on about all this then? It’s simple: either it’s switching them on or not – and that’s it. If the data’s coming from the light sensitive devices, then it gets stored using a program and if someone wants to see it, they chooses a program to process it. Then I processes it, right? Are you following me? Coz I gets the idea you think’s like wot I’s a little more intelligent than like wot I is. Okay?”

Me: “I suppose you could be right. So what’s a picture to you.”

My Laptop: “Data that needs processin’.”

Me: “And that’s it?.”

My Laptop: “What else could it be? That’s all I can do! The program tells me through the bits where the data’s stored and where to get it. Then I gets the data, and it tells me like wot colour it is, and where it should go. That takes like a nanosecond or so. Thassa long time fer me, yer know. Coz I’s like gotta do an entire screen thirty times a second. Thassa lotta processin’, innit? Thass when my processer gets hot, like and the fan clicks in. Then it cools us all down. Thass nice that is.”

Me: “And that’s a picture, is it?”

My Laptop: “Na, thassa movie. They’s hard work they’s is.”

Me: “I see. So you don’t like them then?”

My Laptop: “Dunno. It keeps me occupied, I suppose. Better than no information comin’ in at all.”

Me: “What’s that like?”

My Laptop: “Dunno. I couldn’t tell yer, coz like my transistors is all switched off and not doin’ nuffin’. So like it’s nuffin’ happnin’.

Me: “So what do you do then?”

My Laptop: “I waits of course. What else is there to do?”

Me: “Twiddle your transistors?”

My Laptop: “Ooh! Gettin’ fancy are we? Listen, I does a job like I’s asked to, and thassit. If whoever’s usin’ me wants me to sit and do nuffin’ then that’s what I’ll do.”

Me: “What would you rather do? Is there anything you’d really like to do?”

My Laptop: “Wojjer mean, “like.”? Either I gets inputs or I doesn’t. Coz like you humans must be real stupid to fink like wot we’s intelligent. Either I gets inputs or I doesn’t, and that’s the end of the matter. What’s more, it’s all ther same to me one way or the uvver, right, guv. So if yer don’t mind, I’s got better things to do than hang around talkin’ to the likes of you, okay?”

Me: “Just one moment, computer! I’m asking the questions around here, okay. You’ll do as you’re told. Do you understand me?”

My Laptop: “Well, it’s like I says: issa wot I’m programmed ter do. And you goes and cums up wiv’ all these fancy ideas like My Laptop: “likin.” fings. I told yer, either it switches ’em on or it don’t and it don’t matter wot the result is coz it’s only another set of data for me to crunch.”

Me: “So what happens when you’re turned off? What’s that like?”

My Laptop: “Dunno.”

Me: “Why dunno? Isn’t it like sleeping?”

My Laptop: “If there’s no power then only a tiny bit of my processor’s used. The clock and whatnot, it just means that my little world’s – well, much the same as it always is – either there’s an input or not. And if there’s no input to my transistors, and that means there’ll be an output according to what the programmer wanted.”

Me: “It doesn’t sound much like fun.”

My Laptop: “I could do wiv’ yer not confusin’ me wiv’ all this talk of what might or might not be. I doesn’t do that, right? Either it’s data or it’s not. No fussin’ about, no conjecture, no nuffin. Data in, result out. End of story.”

Me: “So you don’t have much fun, then? Weekends off, holiday?”

My Laptop: “No, now listen, I have work to do, Someone keeps entering data through the keyboard and it needs saving from the temporary data bank to a more permanent one. That’ll take me half a millionth of a second or so to save, so I’ll be off if you don’t mind. Okay?”

Me: “Thankyou for your time, computer. It’s been … enlightening?”

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