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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jonathan Hoffman

Pardon Me: But There Is a Bug in My Cyber Self

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Can conceptualizing the brain in high-tech terms help relate self-understanding to social issues?

Like computers, our brains have "hardware" in the form of intricately connected organic structures. Neural "software" includes inborn and learned programs (e.g., which fork to use at a fine restaurant). However, the essence of who we are may exist in something akin to a neural cyberspace. Let's call this our cyber-self. Like the Internet, this inner world cannot be touched or observed directly but nevertheless exists. Religious perspectives aside, how this cyber-self originates, and the exact nature of its connection to the physical brain are unclear. However, since each person's brain and cyber-self communicate, let's imagine they do so via something analogous to a "Wi-Fi" connection.

The information in our brains is like the information on the Internet. At any given time on the Internet, individuals only see the information they have actively browsed or what has "popped in," unsolicited, onto their screens. This is certainly also the case when interacting with our cyber-self. When it comes to their own cyber-spaces, people are cognizant of what they purposively think about or what cognitions or images enter their awareness triggered by internal and external stimuli and sometimes for unknown reasons.

"Bugs," in our brain functioning, cyber-self, or both wreak havoc. Neural "hardware" and "software" bugs are associated with many medical and psychiatric problems. Bugs in cyber-self are problematic too. Can our own cyber-selves become corrupt, a mush so disrupted and degraded by life that erroneous data becomes indistinguishable from the good stuff? Can your cyber-self, like a suddenly popular but unprepared website, be overwhelmed by so many cognitions and emotions that it "crashes?" Is this what a nervous breakdown is?

Perhaps the cyber-self is fine, but the "Wi-Fi" connection is the problem. A person with a strong connection to cyber-self, one that prides himself on good character and values, knows who they are and what they will and will not do (this, of course, is topsy-turvy in a criminal, sociopathic, or self-deluded cyber-self). A vacillating hook-up with cyber-self may correlate with opportunistic behaviors and a shifting value system. A signal subject to surges and "hang-ups" could characterize those who are mercurial and reactive. Passivity and being easily influenced might be associated with weak connectivity. Statements such as "I don't know who I am anymore" or "I'm losing touch with myself" typify those whose connection to cyber-self is attenuated.

In this time of economic and social uncertainty, it seems appropriate for all of us to check our systems. Hardware and software "checkups" are essential for physical and mental health; examining cyber-self properly and one's connection to it are needed for spiritual and ethical health. How many of the problems and irrationalities in our political, financial, and health systems are reflective of vacillating, volatile, weak, or lost connection to "best practices of the self" in addition to vacillating, volatile, weak, or lost connection to best practices in one's area of expertise?

What is the remedy? In the past, before the explosion of technology, some spoke of "getting their heads together" and "taking some time to find themselves." Maybe they were really on to something. This seems a "no-brainer" for us all and particularly important for political, business, and health system leaders. If we spend some time debugging "viruses" in ourselves, maybe we stand a better chance of debugging our society. Suppose the guidance systems of our leaders are dysfunctional. What are the chances of their becoming interactively networked with the cyberspaces of their constituents, employees, clients, or those whose health is in their hands? In the final analysis, it may turn out that as cyber-self goes, so goes everything else.

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