Imagine, for a second, that we are just like computers.
A computer is made up of three layers: its hardware, its operating system (like Windows, Linux or Mac OS X) and software or apps.
Humans are no different. We are no more than an amalgamation of our body, our thought construct and the skills and knowledge we acquire through time.
Peeling back the first layer, computer hardware, like microprocessors and hard drive, is the equivalent of being born with five senses together with two arms and two legs.
The last layer is also relatively easy to understand. Software and apps are readily installed or deleted from your iPhone not dissimilar to people learning new languages or skills and forgetting, say calculus, along the way.
The second layer is what fascinates me most. Because unlike a computer, our operating system isn’t neatly installed on day one.
Humans aren’t born with a functional operating system. Generally speaking, it takes between one to three years before we become self-aware. And it’s perhaps not until the age of five to seven that we develop the requisite thought construct necessary for worldly interaction.
Yet once developed, our operating system is deeply engrained and becomes a part of who we are. Very few times, do we ever revisit our operating system.
- How often do any of us go back and look at why we think a certain way?
- Why do we react a certain way to certain situation?
- Why do we feel pessimistic towards situation X yet react positively to situation Y?
The fact is that we have, since a very young age, attributed certain meaning to certain things, often leading to what is known as cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are tendencies to think a certain way which may deviate from our usual standard of rationality. For examples, the tendency to:
- do things because many others do the same (Bandwagon effect)
- think future possibilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged (Gambler’s fallacy)
- place disproportionate value on furniture you assembled yourself, irrespective of the quality of the end product (IKEA effect)
A whole list of cognitive biases can be found on Wikipedia, which provides for an interesting read in itself.
The trouble is, however, that the world has evolved considerably since the day our operating systems were first developed. And there is every chance that our operating systems are no longer optimised for the world we live in.
My very first computer was running Windows 95. I have since upgraded to Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 and now Windows 10.
At a personal level, I’ve been running the same operating system I’d developed for myself since the mid 90’s. And while it’s operational, it’s also far from optimised.
I’ll be making a few timely updates to my operating system, fixing a few bugs (or my own cognitive biases) including but not limited to:
- Associating being bold with failure
- Associating success with having money
- Readily giving up and making excuses for myself; and
- Listening to the little man (the one who always tells you you can’t do something) instead of following my guts.
Going forward, I’ll be checking in to make sure my operating system is running smoothly on top of installing more apps.
Is is time for you to update your operating system? What sort of updates will you be making?