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Mental Simulations And Cloud Computing: Faulty Reasoning Meet The Coming Reality

Mental Simulations And Cloud Computing: Faulty Reasoning Meet The Coming Reality

My journey to purchasing a MacBook Air and adopting the cloud for all my data storage needs was fraught with many naysayers. What amazed me most was the salesman who challenged my commitment.

When faced with the idea of selling me something without a traditional hard drive no less than four salesmen attempted to talk me out of it. When pressed for reason all they could tell me was that the MacBook Pro was better because it contained a hard drive and a DVD slot for about the same price. When I explained that I was a writer and wanted the lightweight and faster processing capabilities an interesting social transaction took place that demonstrated the mismatch between my mental simulations and the salesman’s reasoning. Similar disconnects are happening every day as decisions are made about utilizing cloud computing.

These salesmen simply did not believe I wanted to store data on the cloud and forgo storage on a hard drive. They attempted to appeal to my sense of reason using a decision-making theory called economic utility. They’re thinking was that surely the Pro made more sense than the Air because it offered a better value that I could see, feel, and touch. Never mind that I didn’t want a heavier machine with a fan and a hard drive but a more nimble notebook and cloud storage. I was framing my decision around what I valued subjectively also known as a mental simulation. I’m imagining the quick start-up and thin design alongside the loss of data I had already experienced with traditional storage.

Mental Simulation Trumps Utility Theory

The four salesmen I dealt with were applying a version of the utility theory that tried to appeal to my rational need to get more for the same money. For them and MacBook Pro buyers it is easier to imagine data they can drag around in a metal box. My imagination was more geared to less hassle and adjusting to remote storage to meet that goal.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, echoed a theme that has become prevalent over the last decade when he said, “humans are not either thinking machines or feeling machines but rather feeling machines that think.” ( For the cloud-computing enthusiast, this means that clients need help re-imagining their future alongside cloud computing applications.

Whenever I’m around people with a MacBook Pro I ask them why they didn’t choose the air. They get an uncomfortable look on their face and tell me that they just couldn’t imagine not having a hard drive or a slot to slip in a movie or download a program. So like many companies that put off cloud computing services, fear inhabits the mind rather than efficiency.

Potential cloud adopter’s mental simulations must be understood and addressed whether they are rationalizing or responding subjectively. As they imagine their future in the cloud, help them make sure that future is realistically assessed.

By Don Cleveland


Although relatively new to technology writing Don Cleveland has been writing and working in the fields of business and psychology over the last 25 years. After earning his B.A. in psychology at the University of South Florida he has returned to finish an M.A. in counseling. His passions are shining psychology’s empirical light on the world of computing and work through research and writing.