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Software is a weird thing

October 2006

Software is a weird thing. It barely exists in the physical world; at its most physical it's a series of tiny pits and grooves on a plastic disc, or a printout of source code. However, this lack of physicality makes it no less real. An electronic book is no less able to move the reader than a real one, for all that it is represented by nothing more than a string of magnetic charges. Film now comes in digital form more often than on analogue reels, and entire music collections exist solely as files on a hard drive.

The key here is that this is not magic. Yes, it's hard to fathom how something so incredibly detailed, something requiring so much work to create, can have almost no physical existence. But this is the case, and it is not magic.

Why then our obsession with describing a human soul? Why do we not believe the brain is capable of holding our selves in the same way a magnetic disc can hold a film, a book, or a song?

It doesn't need to be magic. Why do we feel the need to make it so?

KT commented:

So are you asking why we have so much trouble conceiving of an immaterial soul, or why we keep trying to insist that there's more to it than the brain?

Matt commented:

The latter.