On Thinking and Simulated Thinking
Jordan Hall
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This is the third time I’m trying to write another response :-) Rereading your essay, I was again struck by this statement: “The more reality drifts from the environment that the scripts of simulated thinking were designed for, the more errors the simulation will throw.” This suggests agitation, conflict, instability. It also suggests that if we are to progress, to solve, to change, we will need to pass through the gauntlet of errors, and this makes me think of what just happened in Hawaii.

Last month, residents and visitors were told that a missile attack was imminent. Many believed the alert and panicked. When people learned that the alert was false, some responded with outrage; some sent death threats to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency; others demanded explanations from the governor on down. Day after day, articles appeared in the newspaper, detailing both these responses and conflicting accounts of what had happened that morning.

To this day, there is no accepted account that explains what happened and why.

Many of the things I read in the paper were what I would call scripts. One of the few things that I wouldn’t put in this category is an opinion piece written by a sociology professor, who pointed out that false alerts, mistaken “facts,” and so forth have been common for the last century, endangering millions of people around the world. He also said that we should expect systems to have errors and to pretend that we can build one without them actually predisposes us to failure (my paraphrase).

Speaking of scripts, someone pointed out that the announcement that caused the “button pusher” to issue the alert contained a paradox: it both identified itself as an exercise and said, “This is not a drill.”

I hope that what I’ve said is relevant to your wonderful essay; if not, please feel free to delete this response. Many thanks again.