the wired jungle

July 21, 2008

My main task in helping my mom unpack in Viginia (besides providing a bit of grunt labor) was to setup the computer and the television- the cable, the DVD, and three or four video game systems.

MELAS (My Ever Lovin' Aunt Susan) asked if the rejiggering of the AV stuff was basically easy for me, and just a bunch of work, or if it was complex. It was easy, I assured her, and then explained a bit about matching white and red and yellow connectors for the sound and picture, and recognizing and knowing an "S-Video" plug, etc.

But then I thought about it, and realized that with a moderately advanced setup (and in this case we have two A/V switches, one that's "TV / DVD / Games" and the other that selects the actual game system) it gets pretty complex. Or rather, complex enough so that if it's not working you don't immediately know what's going on.

And I could see that maybe that's where I do have a skillset she doesn't, or at least not as refined... it's a process very similar to debugging a computer program: figure out what assumptions you're making, and then isolate and challenge each assumption in turn so you know what's going wrong. (OK, the Wii picture isn't showing up... does it show up when I plug it directly into the TV? Yes, so the TV is probably on the right channel. Now what if I plug it into the first switch box? Still works. How about into the second switch box? Problem. OK, so there's likely a loose plug or something between the two switch boxes.... etc etc etc)

This process comes easily and naturally for me... so easily I don't know if it's something semi-instinctive, something I figured out for myself growing up, or something that was drilled into me in computer science class and then refined through years of practice as a professional programmer. Quite possibly the latter, though it might be some of each, that I had that kind of temperament that led me to my eventual career field...

And does this tie in to my general hemming and hawing, my strong reluctance to speak in absolutes, and reliance on saying stuff like "I don't see it here" rather than "it's not here"?

This morning I had detailed dreams about playing World of Warcraft, which felt kind of weird because I've never actually played it.
Aw, nuts....Jeff Hawkins thinks Searle is right about the Chinese Room thought experiment??