Written by David Tebbutt, MicroScope 07/83 item 01 - scanned

HELLO! IS ANYONE THERE?

Reaction to Reflections during the last eight months has been pretty muted, to say the least. Now and again I strike a chord, especially when I have a go at the punters. I had a go at the newspapers once and was rewarded by a snotty piece in the UK Press Gazette. The 'Grockles' piece aroused a fair amount of sympathetic murmuring and, more recently, my piece about IBM's John McIntyre moved the Editor of Another Magazine to write a kind of note. In the main though my musings make hardly a ripple in our microcomputing pond.

On the arrogant assumption that this silence is more a product of apathy than of ignorance of my efforts, I decided a few weeks ago to throw a sizeable brick into our pond and make some real waves. I treated you to a preview of a future in which the world will be more or less run by computers and we will simply become their servants or playthings.

I waited for the reaction and, to tell the truth, I'm still waiting. My wife reacted by losing her motivation for rearing three children. Suddenly there seemed little point. Amanda, one of my work colleagues, became even more convinced that I'm off my trolley. And my long-suffering partner, Bill, was sure that this time I'd 'get a few people going'. Of course I didn't and that's rather wrecked my master plan. You see, having got you all worried, I was going to suggest a way that we could all work towards outsmarting the machines.

Changing the subject for a moment, did you read about Arthur Koestler's legacy? He has left money to establish a chair of parapsychology at one of our universities. Psychology, according to my dictionary, is the study of the human soul or mind. Para means beyond. Let's say that parapsychology means pushing the study of the human soul or mind into areas which are beyond the reach of conventional scientific thinking.

If my experience is anything to go by, people will vary in their reaction to such study. Many will say things like 'it's not for us to interfere with the supernatural'. Others will say that it's all nonsense since nothing can be proved. Others of course will think it's about time someone took the paranormal a bit more seriously.

Now here's a weird thing. Just as I was in the middle of typing my explanation of parapsychology, the machine fell over and I lost all my text. I've just had to rekey it. It's not as if it happens very often these days. It makes me feel creepy. Was it a warning? Or was Amanda right?

It seems to me that the frightened brigade are okay and so are the people who think these things should be taken a bit more seriously. The folk who bother me are those who have completely closed their minds to the possibility that there may still be things which science is incapable of measuring. This is arrogance of a fairly high order. No doubt the 'flat earthers' before them and those who were convinced that the earth was the centre of the universe were just as convinced of the rightness of their beliefs. The fact is that science advanced, and things which had previously been regarded as fancy theories became proven and were adopted into our body of knowledge.

So it may be with the so-called parapsychology. Scientists may soon discover the tools to measure what are currently regarded as supernatural phenomena. We have spent hundreds of years coming to terms with the world outside of our brains, it is only in the last hundred or so years that we have started taking the world within seriously. Once again, I suppose that we have been a bit arrogant to use our brains to examine themselves and draw conclusions. The fact is that we have discovered a lot about how the brain works and we have also developed a pretty effective set of observations which make psychology such a useful science. Now we're on the verge of looking beyond this at the more spiritual aspects of human behaviour and, if there's anything in it, we'll have a new set of skills and abilities which the computers won't be able to emulate.

Dare I say it - if there are any telepathists, spoon benders, telekinesists, dowsers, levitationists astral projectionists, prophets and visionaries among us - keep up the good work and why not get in touch? You are the hope for the human race.