How to debug the programming

Back in the days of DOS, my first personal computer was giving me problems. It would sometimes fail to boot up from its “massive” 40 megabyte hard drive. I’d push the power button repeatedly until it finally started. When I shut it down, I never knew if it would start again.

So when my computer genius brother-in-law was at our home, I asked him to look at it. He got into the root directory and changed the autoexec.bat file while I watched. The computer performed better … for a while.

When I began having trouble again, I got into the root directory and altered the autoexec.bat file myself. I kept doing this each time there were problems, until a real computer guy pointed his finger at me and said ruthlessly, “Don’t ever do that again!” Nowadays, critical subroutines are placed in “Hidden Files,” where dolts like me can’t get to them.

A computer behaves the way it does because of a myriad of commands buried in tens of thousands of files hidden in its operating system. In just one key folder of the computer that I’m using right now there are almost 4,000 files, containing countless data. There are 20 other sub-folders in the Windows folder, with approximately twenty thousand additional files. And these folders do not even include the program files the computer needs to do work.

It is often asked whether computers have the potential to develop human-like intelligence. Science fiction writers usually say yes, scientists and philosophers usually say no. According to Ryan Whitwam of ExtremeTech, researchers have recently managed to simulate one second of human brain activity in a computer. Whitwam writes, “It took 40 minutes with the combined muscle of 82,944 processors … to get just 1 second of biological brain processing time.” Of course biological processing time is a million miles away from human consciousness.

There are all kinds of differences between a human being and a computer, but there is an important similarity: each operates from stored and often hidden information. Humans, like computers, are programmed. Some of that programming is from nature and some is from nurture, just as some of a computer’s programming is contained in the operating system (nature) and some in the program files (nurture). Of course human programming is unimaginably more extensive and complicated than that of a computer.

When later programming causes conflicts with original programming, things go wrong. A computer might crash. So might a person. A computer might produce nonsense. So might a person. A computer’s performance, like a person’s, might slowly deteriorate.

Christians (among many others) think that humans were made and programmed by a Creator. They do not believe that humanity came into existence through blind processes, not even over the space of millions of years. They believe in a Programmer. And further, they think that the original programming has been written over, causing humanity much suffering.

This explains why the world is full of injustice, hatred and violence. Our programming has been altered. Even seemingly innocuous changes can have catastrophic results, as I learned when I rewrote the autoexec.bat file on my old computer.

Can the damage to earth and humanity be undone? Christians believe it can, one human at a time. A person meets God through Jesus Christ, asks and receives forgiveness for the mess she’s made of things, and allows God to make corrections. In biblical parlance, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Often people have no idea why things have gone so wrong. They just know that life is running poorly and sometimes crashes. They live in conflict with their own programming and with just about everything else. The good news is that they can bring the whole mess to the original Programmer, and ask him to debug the programming and do whatever else is needed.

First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 11/14/2015

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