All the way down to the 0s and the 1s

Whatever is happening on your computer screen manifests in several levels.

On the most superficial level is the application that is currently running. If you have an Excel file open, the computer renders it on your screen.

If this excel file is slow and laggy, you check if it has too much data or is performing too many calculations. You then check if the computer is performing other tasks in parallel – perhaps a file transfer or a full system virus scan.

If this isn’t the case, you press Control + Alt + Delete to find out if background processes are consuming too much of your ram. You check if that innocuous looking Google Chrome window has spun up 15 processes that are monopolizing your RAM.

Usually, people stop their forensic analysis here and restart their computer. One level deeper are the .dll files that your applications invoke and the lines of code they hold. The better this code is, the more efficient your programs are. And it is a couple of more layers down until we go all the way down to 1s and 0s.

Your mental processor also manifests in several layers.

While riding the bus to work, you might find yourself getting irritated with the person beside you who has loud hip-hop music spilling out of his headphones. Digging deeper, you realize that your bus is running 10 minutes late, delaying you for an important meeting.

A layer deeper, and you realize you have a hectic week ahead with several conflicting deadlines. You feel overwhelmed just thinking about them. What’s more? Those projects are crucial for your upcoming annual appraisal. Several layers further, you unearth the incredible parental and peer pressure that pushes you to pursue an ambitious career path. All these layers play their part in the irritation you feel towards the co-passenger grooving in the seat next to you.

Mastery in computer science starts with operating a computer on the surface, but goes all the way down to 1s and 0s. Self awareness starts with what you feel on the surface, but goes down the several layers that simulate our conscious experience.

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