Archive for the ‘myth and metaphor’ Category

World Wide Web

Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

Let’s look into the metaphor of the World Wide Web and its dark implications. Why does a spider spin a web? What is the web’s sole purpose? To trap bugs and flies so that the spider can eat them! Who is this one spider creating our web? Or are we all spiders creating our own webs? It is in the nature of things to have a natural hierarchy, within the animal kingdom. But what happens when spiders eat other spiders, does this seem natural?The trap may come as a perfect surprise to the fly. Or perhaps the web is shiny and looks like it would be sticky and sweet, desireable to eat. Once the fly is trapped, it will see its fate coming. The spider will hurry over and paralyze its victim, and slowly drain the life force out…

The End of The Universe

Monday, February 28th, 2005

Now, the end of the universe is one of those things we could likely avoid thinking about, without too many consequences. However, it is sometimes interesting to consider what might happen a few billion years from now, will the universe start to contract, and eventually squish itself back into a little point before exploding again into the big bang? Or will it just continue expanding forever, until the suns go out, and all is cold.

In either of those situations, you have to wonder what will happen to humanity, if we perchance happen to be there, or to some other intelligent life, if any exists and makes it that far. Is that just the end of all life? It’s somewhat disconcerting to think so.

A fellow named Frank Tipler believes that it’s inevitable the universe will fill up with intelligent life, and that by the time the universe collapses, the ability of life to process information will be asymptotically infinite (as we get closer to the collapse, the closer to being able to process an infinite amount of information), allowing that life to essentially simulate the entire universe again, thus reproducing all of us, and our lives again, in this simulation of what is essentially the universe.

It’s an interesting idea, although I’m certainly skeptical that he bases his theological statements entirely on the bible. It’s interesting to wonder what the world will be like in a few thousand years, let alone a few million or billion.

You can read a little bit about his theory here (Tipler’s site) and here (wikipedia).

Along the same lines, there’s a fun short story by Isaac Asimov that has another ending to the universe:
The Last Question

Religion and Ecology

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

A wonderful program today on the CBC’s radio series, Tapestry on God’s Green Earth: Religion and Ecology. It was quite inspiring because it celebrated humans and the environment as part of creation (BTW, which was defined as 14b years).

It includes two site of note:
The Canadian Forum on Religion and Ecology
The Forum on Religion and Ecology at Harvard University

I believe that the green nuns mentioned in the broadcast are the Sisters of St Martha on PEI. The nuns see themselves as advocates for earth and ascribe to a cosmology that puts earth/ecology as a necessary step between humans and god.

Legal actions to halt innovation

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

Prevailing myths about computers hold that technological innovations epitomize progress, which are both desirable and inevitable. Next week in class, we’ll wonder out loud whether the inevitable thrust of progress is such a good idea, particularly when it seems devoid of any precautionary principle. But how comfortable do we really feel about halting progress? Consider this article from the The Washington Post, which asks: How should courts view technologies that have beneficial uses but also are heavily used for illegal acts?

Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether a file-sharing service named Grokster should be held liable for the millions of people around the world who use it to illegally trade music, movies and software.

The entertainment industry is asking the court to rule that even though Grokster itself does not engage in stealing files, the service is responsible because it is predominantly used for theft and has done nothing to try to stop that use.


The prospect that the court might adopt this legal reasoning is sending shudders through the technology and consumer electronics communities. Hundreds of existing products could be threatened, they say. And they fear that new products, and early funding, will die in the crib if the gear might be co-opted by people wishing to use it improperly.

“If it’s so risky for me to try out new things or put new things on the market, you are really going to devastate people’s willingness to innovate,” said Elliott Frutkin, chief executive of Time Trax Technologies Corp., a Gaithersburg start-up.

For those of us who love our iPods, peer-to-peer software, and Tivo, can we be so quick to condemn progress? That is the conundrum for our-technology-loving culture.