Computers and Human choice
This article looks at the relationship between both subjects and
provides a comparative study. Choice is about making decisions.
These are simply where you choose to take one action as opposed to another.
It is the fundamental basic of our daily lives. What choices we make
reflect upon many things. But we make many of them every minute.
We’re going to examine the decision making process as it happens in
Then use that to evaluate the same process in human behaviour.
Computers are now so advanced we take them for granted.
We simply type in our data through a keyboard, be it physical,
or a virtual representation on our phone or tablet screens.
The computer then provides us with a set of results, in a form
we can understand.
Yet this data, when entered into the computer has to go through
a series of changes before it can be processed.
That procedure then has to be reversed before you see the final results.
Information passing through a computer consists simply of two
conditions. Either a one or a zero.
This format is known as binary language, and is the method used for
all types of data manipulation.
It’s the only form of information a computer literally understands.
We equate this condition, as either yes or no.
A single binary digit in and of itself, is not very useful.
So binary data is manipulated in larger chunks.
In computing parlance, the term bit references one binary digit.
The term byte was coined from the phrase by eight adding an
additional e. A single byte consists of eight binary digits.
The binary system is used as a method to to convert our complex
grammar into something the computer can work with and understand.
The following series of examples will illustrate.
These are a couple of examples of binary numbers as represented
to the computer in bytes, namely
eight binary digits.
The question can be seen even before it’s asked. What does that
lot mean. The explanation is easy but requires a degree of clarifying.
Each binary digit has a numeric value. These values increase as we
move along the list. Very similar to our normal numbering systems.
However the way the sequence increases is completely different.
In binary the numeric value of a bit doubles as we move along the string.
Bit one at the beginning of the string, extreme right has a value of one
Bit two has a value of 2
Bit three has a value of 4
Bit four has a value of 8
Bit five has a value of 16
Bit six has a value of 32
Bit seven has a value of 64
Bit eight at the extreme left has a value of 128
Using this formula, taking the examples previously shown
example 1: 00110110
Here we have four ones. These represent a positive value.
The zeros represent nothing. The positive values are relative
to the position of the one in the byte.
Moving from right to left.
We have a zero in the first position
One in the second position, the value associated with it is 2
The third position also has a one, the value for this is 4
Zero in the fourth position
The fifth position has a one, the value for this is 16
The sixth position also has a one, the value for this is 32
The seventh and eighth positions are both zero and
therefore have no value.
To find the numeric value for the byte we simply add together
all the positive values giving us the grand total of 54.
For those that want to try it with the second example.
Example 2: 10110011
Please feel free, but don’t read the following sentence.
For those that don’t the numeric value of this byte is 179.
The problem with binary numbers is they can become extremely
large very quickly.
For human interaction it was decided to limit data size to one byte.
Each byte can have a decimal value from zero to 255.
Data input has to be converted into binary format so the
computer understands it. The method used is the character set.
It is simply an index of alphanumeric and special characters.
Each of which has an associated decimal value.
From my time as a computer engineer and practicing programmer
there have been two character sets which have become familiar
although there are many more.
Ascii: American Standard Code for Information Interchange
Ebcdic: European Binary Coding Decimal Inter Change System
The conversion process work in a top down and bottom up model
I’ll use the term alphanumeric. To describe the way we represent the data.
Look down at your keyboard, there is the character set.
It consists of the letters, numbers, syntax symbols and special
characters that form our languages.
Each character is given a corresponding decimal value.
When a key is typed, we see the alphanumeric character reproduced.
The computer software sees a decimal value.
Moving further down the chain, that decimal value is converted to it’s
binary equivalent where the computer can recognize and work with it.
Once the data has been processed, it can be either left in storage
or returned as output.
For this, the results are converted back from binary, through decimal
to alphanumeric. This is a very simplified analogy.
The illustration below shows the process a bit more clearly.
The interaction between our conscious and sub conscious minds
works in a similar way. We take in experience through the senses,
or in NLP terms the representational systems.
Our physical senses pick up on an unimaginable amount of
information at any given time. yet the conscious mind can only
process a minute amount of that.
This is quite simply to stop information overload. We notice what we
need to know, or actually want to know.
So we take in what we deem as being necessary and filter the rest out.
This process has many paths but there are three key elements.
Deletion, Distortion and Generalization.
Deletion is where the unnecessary experience is quite simply removed.
Distortion is where the focus is on a small part of the experience.
Generalization is where similar items of related experience become
Each experience is coded according to the representation system
through which it passes. As an example, an experience of seeing will
have a strongly visual connection associated with it.
Recall will usually be an image.
Audio experience will be coded as sound. Recall will be sound.
Sensations of touch, will be coded accordingly. Recall will be the
sensation of touch. Smell and Taste work in the same manner.
Stronger experience often has a mixture of inputs and will therefore
be triggered by an association from any one of them.
Yet by contrast the subconscious mind, like the computer storage device
is able to hold all of our life experience. In the computer, the data
is accessed via a directive link, this is a logical address which is issued
by the operating system when the data is stored. To access the data,
the computer simply finds the address where the data is stored.
Our subconscious minds work in a similar way, except our data is stored
as experience. The address is the linked emotional content added
as the data was stored by the representation system through which
it was input.
The illustration below shows this more clearly.
As can be seen with both systems. Data input is broken down and
simplified into a format where the data can be processed and stored.
In order to access the data, the process has to be be reversed.
Each systems handles a limited amount data, but it processes that
data with extreme rapidity. Each can recapture data with tremendous efficiency.
This brings us back to the original theme for this article, that of choice.
In computers choice is made based on a series of logical instructions.
These require that a series of conditions is evaluated in a specific
manner. To produce a set of results.
With the Subconscious/conscious mind.
Choice is based on emotive content.
It is made subject to the perceived benefits to be gained or
the corresponding difficulties which can be avoided.
Notice anything familiar, The fundamental basics of choice seem
to boil down to one of two states
YES or NO.
Article and graphics by Mark Reed
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