Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

Our Lady of the Tombs

May 18, 2008

Nothomb‘s novel Acide Sulfurique is trying hard to be as close as possible to abstraction, leaving almost any concrete description of events behind the curtain. The reader’s imagination is not supposed to complete the missing parts, for the abstraction is the essence here, a skeleton to be perceived and experienced in its bear form.

The story is, therefore, deliberately simple: a reality show named “Concentration”, representing a Nazi concentration camp. The Kapos are elected in an American Idol style of filtering, while the prisoners are randomly abducted from the streets. From this point on it’s a chain of almost pure concepts: animals’ wagons stuffed with people of all ages; numbers tattooed on the prisoners’ hands; dehumanization; starvation; rape; death. Added to these concepts are omni-present cameras that capture every possible audio-visual signals. Materials are edited, and then there’s the daily night show. In the society of the spectacle the rating is great, but when it starts to stagnate “interactivity” is introduced into the show, the audience being asked to participate in the daily “death selections” (performed so far by the Kapos) by means of sending SMSes with the prisoners’ alpha-numeric IDs whose life are to be taken. Remind you – anything in this camp, on this show, is real.

And although intuition warns that this kind of book is about to fall into the banality trap, the opposite happens. Because no description – but the evocation of the above concepts – is provided, banality is avoided. Moreover, the fact that the book is mainly structure, allows Nothomb to introduce a surprisingly powerful technique – an effectively shocking one – which turns you, the reader, into as hideous collaborator as those disgusting-yet-all-human audience of the concentration show.

Our lady of the tombs gives you, reader, a choice: you can restore your human simulacra by closing the book and not reading it further, the equivalent of shutting down the TV set. Or you could keep on reading and see yourself turning, in real-time, into a disgusting voyeur of a hideous reality. And as she’s aware of the weakness of the human nature, she gives not one but two chances for redemption.

Personally, I obeyed the 2nd call, closed the book and intended to not reading it further. Personally, I failed, the cheap curiosity taking over my previous act of honor. Just like anyone else in Nothomb’s book, I couldn’t resist watching.

Rest some of the questions raised by the form:

Can this really happen? (Of course it can – it already did!)

Yes, but can it really happen today? Well, ask yourself the following questions:

1. If such a show exist, how many people will watch it? [“unfortunately many will“]
2. In our “participation age”, with all its technological mediums of mass collaboration and of induced transparency – how many will actively participate in the executions by sending SMSes, or by Twittering their candidates for the daily death selections? [Many will. Some others will think about it, but will refrain from actively pushing the voting buttons]

But wait! There’s no need to actively push the buttons any longer! They no longer need your vote; they can do with your twittered thought! All you need is to think the alpha-numeric IDs of your candidates and your thought will be automatically encoded then transmitted into the show’s Twitter channel.

That’s a great solution, for after all even God blames no one for just thinking!

Acide sulfurique (Sulphuric Acid) by Amélie Nothomb

Methods and Black Squares – The Logo?

January 2, 2007

A proposal.


Aristotle and the Soul of the Internet

November 21, 2006

Aristotle determines what an organic living object is using the following criteria:

a. Growth, nutrition, (reproduction)
b. Autonomous Locomotion (i.e. auto-generated movement in space)
c. Perception
d. Intellect (= thought)

This gives us three corresponding degrees of soul:
a. Nutritive soul (plants)
b. Sensitive soul (all animals)
c. Rational soul (human beings)

Now, many are speaking about the Internet becoming, sooner or later, an organic creature, and so what I’d like to show is why the Aristotelian criteria reinforce and probably explain these feelings, given the advent of utility computing and the architecture titled – scale-out.

Scale-Out Architecture

Scale-out is an architecture used more and more in those cases where computer systems are required to scale ad-infinitum in order to sustain an unknown yet massive amount of online users. Amazon, eBay, Google etc. are all companies specializing in both the deployment and the optimization of scale-out architecture.

This architecture has the following conceptual components and processes:

The Brain (or mind, or manager, or controller)

The brain constantly senses (or monitors) the system’s environment: how many users are currently on-line? What is the overall CPU consumption of the system? What is the status of each of the hardware/software components that makes the system? and so forth.

The Brain performs real-time compilation of all this sensual data and meditates about the current state of things. In case a faulty situation is either identified or anticipated, the Brain reacts by adapting itself to the newly created situation. To better visualize this adaptation, I will use the following scenario:

A system consists of 4 servers. The Brain identifies a dangerous increase in users’ load – something that can be solved by adding a fifth server. The brain then launches dynamic, self-healing/self-nutrition processes that take a bare metal – a hardware-only box – attaches it to storage and network devices, installs the required operating system and applications and finally makes the server fully operational.

We have just witnessed two Aristotelian criteria in motion:

Nutrition, Self-feeding and reproduction

The system just “ate” a bare metal, digested it and turned it into something it needs. In many cases, what the system is actually doing is cloning itself into the new server – a reproduction process.

Self-induced locomotion – movement in space

The system now occupies five servers. It occupies more physical space than it has occupied a minute before.

Needless to say, all these operations occur without any human intervention. They are completely autonomous.

The Internet, hence, has a soul.