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Why is IT Seen as Mysterious?

I’m certain there are many factors, but here are a few suggestions:

Information Technology deals with apparently immaterial concepts of information and software. Historically the immaterial has correlated with the spiritual or divine. It’s certainly not ‘ordinary.’

It’s tempting to make the following analogy:

  • Humans: BODY+MIND/SPIRIT/SOUL
  • Computers: HARDWARE+SOFTWARE
  • Therefore: SOFTWARE=SPIRIT

Or put another way:

  • What is the different between a functioning person and a non-functioning (dead) person? Consciousness.
  • What is the difference between a functioning computer and a non-functioning computer? Software (and the electrical energy).
  • Therefore: SOFTWARE=CONSCIOUSNESS

On a more humorous level, some have noted that in order for lay people to benefit from technology, we need to obtain the services of a technologically-literate ‘priestly class,’ who are in possession of secret-knowledge that allows them to charm computers so that they help rather than hinder - this matches our experience of the religious. However, this theory will probably be short lived, since eight-year olds tend work with IT very well.

The mystical nature of cyberspace is also actively promoted by some of the visionary thinkers and researchers in the field:

  • Ray Kurzweil, a pioneer in many aspects of IT has written a popular book with the provocative title: ‘The Age of Spiritual Machines.’

  • Kevin Kelly, founding editor of WIRED magazine: “I have experienced soul-data through silicon.”Harper’s Article, 1995He also draws comparisons between information and spirit.CTNS ‘Science and the Spiritual Quest’ Conference, June 1998.

  • Jennifer Cobb, in her book Cybergrace: The Search for God in the Digital World states “Computation represents a new substrate in which divine creativity can act”Cybergrace, p15

  • In Cybergrace, Jennifer Cobb interviews Robert Jahn of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research group; “Any system that exchanges information with its environment is conscious”Cybergrace, p127... “consciousness is essentially a form of information.”Cybergrace, p135

  • In The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace Margaret Wertheim notes that many of the more visionary thinkers in IT see this as a route to immortality.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard

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