John Topley’s Weblog

Reality Metaphor

I've just had a strange thought. Imagine what it would be like if you took the desktop metaphor popularised by MacOS and Windows and turned it inside out and applied it back to real life.

Your desk would be inside a manilla folder, which itself was inside a filing cabinet drawer. The surface of your desk would be covered with a picture of some clouds or maybe something a bit more personal, and in the corner would be a wastebasket. In the other corner would be the filing cabinet that your desk was in. In other words, your desk would exist in a quantum state whereby it simultaneously contained a filing cabinet and was contained by it. Also on your desk would be pieces of paper referring you to documents stored in your filing cabinet.

Some people would have desks that were four or eight times larger than average. In spite of all this extra room, they'd only be able to work within a regular desk-sized area at any one time.

You would need a different pair of glasses in order to be able to read each different type of document you had, and a different pen to write them. Sometimes you'd get documents from others that you couldn't read because you didn't own the appropriate glasses. Other times, you'd need to upgrade your glasses in order to be able to read the document.

All of this is extreme of course, but you often have to take things to extremes to discover their inadequacies. The basic desktop metaphor hasn't changed a great deal in the thirty-odd years since it was invented. All that's really improved has been the quality of the graphics.

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Your desk would exist in a quantum state whereby it simultaneously contained a filing cabinet and was contained by it.


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