If you don't know what this is, it's the thumbstick for a Nintendo 64 controller. It's got lots of debris in the crevices, probably from potato chips and exfoliated skin.

When I was in elementary school everybody took a programming class where we learned to write programs for MicroWorlds. I was really into "if: then" statements and use to stay up for days writing goofy little programs at home. I figured that even the most complicated computers were really just running thousands of "if: then" statements.

I imagined my life could be like that. There was a special wire running from my brain to my fingertip, and every millisecond it would ask, "Is your skin too hot?"

"No," my fingertip would reply.

"How about now?" my brain would ask a split second later.

"Still okay."

This would go on forever. There was a seperate wire for asking if the fingertip was wet, and another for asking if it was under pressure. Millions of questions were being asked about my body every second. Eventually, I'd touch a hot stove and it would stay there for a moment until my brain asked, "Hey fingertip, is your skin too hot?"

And my fingertip would say, "Yes!"

And my brain would say, "Okay, I'm going to tighten the bicep. You should be out there real soon."

And that was how my body worked. Pretty easy for riding in a car, and pretty difficult for playing soccer, but things seemed to work out.

Then one day I went over to my friend's house and he had a Nintendo 64. He could guide James Bond through a 3D environment and shoot bullets whenever he wanted. The graphics were smooth and fast. I imagined the Nintendo asking the thumbstick, "Did you just move slightly to the left?" and then the computer would figure out where the corners of the room should be, and what color the walls were, and how loud the engine room on the frigate should be, and if James Bond should be getting hit by bullets.

This was the beginning of the end of my "if: then" proto-physiology. It turns out that computer programs can just wait for things to happen, that a fingertip can talk without being asked a question first.

No comments: