Usually people are surprised to notice how like people computers are becoming. But the metaphor can easily be turned on its head.

The material wealth of mankind has been immeasurably improved through the use of machines. The computer is the newest form of machine, but with a difference. It is a "soft" machine rather than a "hard" machine. A hard machine can only do one thing: it can hammer a nail or sign a letter, but not both. A soft machine can do a limitless variety of tasks. Press a button and it is a word processor, press another and it is a spreadsheet calculator.

In the evolution of life, there has been a similar development from purely hard biological systems, i.e. those with little or no self-consciousness, into soft systems, those who are capable of asking unanswerable questions. The technical term for this last type is homo sapiens. The whole idea of asking an unanswerable question would be absurd for a fruit fly, yet absurdities and craziness are built right in to the human condition.

The soft part of our system, of course, is our psyche. It is the part that is "up for grabs" as we grow from an infant into an adult. It is the root of all evil, and the origin of all creativity. And it will always baffle the hard scientists, those who would reduce our thought and behavior to the structure and substance of body and brain.

Yet, even if its origins are obscure, we must believe in the importance and integrity of this "free-floating" soft system. It is who we are and what we believe — what we will die for. Since we know the flight to material "success" always fails, it is in the psyche that we must find our freedom and security both. And if we must develop new ways of thinking and talking about our consciousness of ourselves and the worlds around us, then we must start now. It is only those who see the new horizon, after all, who can describe it to those still struggling up the hill.