The Shamanistic Factor to Technical Support

We have built computers, in part, as a reflection of ourselves. They have brains, they have memories, several parts of a computer are our own electronic version of a human. When we make a human, as well as passing on our genetic data to that child, we are also passing on an element of soul, not just through education, but that spiritual attachment to one another. So in creating, building or installing a computer, do we achieve the same in a tiny way? Pass on our “computer genes” in some small way, in what we build, what we choose to purchase, or perhaps more importantly, what we put on there ourselves?

The first thing we do with a new computer is to teach it a language. Either you install it yourself, or someone has for you (consider that adoption in my book ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) Then you decide how you want it to look, put your favourite programs onto it, copy over data you have stored. Having created, you set out to teach it, then nurture it in your own image.

What I am interested in here is does this process imbue the actual machine itself with some sort of soul?

Technical Support is a role I did for about 2 years. Knowledge is all important, as is hands-on use of computers, and lots of it. Yet about a third of the time minimum, I wouldn’t touch a computer. I would talk to the user, stand near their computer. And it worked. What didn’t work before, did now. It wasn’t anything I did myself, except be in the vicinity of the machine. The machines liked me, and would behave for me. Partly because I had set them up myself.

Now I can break this down into lots of sane rational factors. Of course having my presence reassures the user. I would encourage them into thinking through the steps they had taken to arrive at the problem, repeat the process with me. When they thought about it, they themselves could often see the stage they had missed or followed incorrectly. And there are several more straightforwards reasons like this.

The darker more mysterious area is where things don’t work in any rational way. Why do reboots make things better? Well, don’t things look better generally after a little nap? But also I could walk over to a “broken” computer (in user terms, I’m not claiming to be Uri Geller here) and just encourage it to work. I can’t explain it any better I’m afraid.

So if the computers have this little element of soul, did this make me a channeller of souls, a shaman to computers?

Probably not. However, if someone ever asks you why it worked when they did it the same way every time, put your coffee down, lower your voice, and tell them that…

2 comments

  1. On the other side of that coin, threats seem to do the job as well. I’ve done both in my day, and gotten similar results… and no, I can’t explain it, either.

    When I worked for CowPuters, I would have customers bringing in their malfunctioning systems all the time. I was always willing to hook it up to a monitor and see what was what… but only once did I have a customer admit to anthropomorphizing their computer; I only found out that one when she exclaimed in horror at the dire threats I was muttering at the box.

    “Don’t talk that way to Captain Haddock!”

    Which made me jerk back in surprise for TWO reasons… first because she had given it a name, and second because it’s rare to find a Tintin fan in this country!

    I apologized to her and started calling it more appropriate names: coleocanth, troglodyte, Bashi-bazouk, Ostrogoth… and my favorite of the bunch, fancy-dress freebooter.

    It worked.

    I don’t know why, but I understand what you’re saying, Flotsky old man.

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