Friday, 13 March 2015

The Map Is Not The Territory

Or to put it in more dynamic terms, ‘The Route Is Not The Destination’.

The other day, I was thinking about tarting up the appearance of my blog, in a probably vain bid to attract my readership back into double figures.  So I went to the appropriate place in the dashboard thingie, did what I thought I might want to do, and got ‘Error bX-evmf18’.

Guessing I might need some help in interpreting this, I mailed the Help Forum.  Sure enough, a prompt reply from a friendly expert suggested, amongst other things, that I try doing it in Chrome rather than IE.  I always obey techies as a first resort, and yes, it worked!  (As it happens, I ended up not making any changes, but that’s not the point.)

As a follow-up, whilst saying thank you, I wondered why this should be – why should the same program work differently depending on the browser I use to access it?  I got the somewhat unhelpful reply “Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera...all of these browsers render information differently, which is why you're seeing different behavior in different browsers”, which is really just a kind of rephrasing of my question, isn’t it?  So the experts don’t know either.

This anecdote is trivial, no serious harm done.  But it’s by no means a unique instance of this sort of stuff, and I can’t help but worry a bit.   We hear about the forthcoming ‘Internet of Things’, whereby, within the blink of an evolutionary eyelid (see Moore’s Law), our washing machines will be telling us to change our socks, our driverless cars will be deciding whether to run over the stray dog or the pram, and our wheelie bins will scold us for dropping a plastic bottle in the wrong one ...  And I think: are they serious??

For an industry that, after decades, can’t even agree on a set of standards for how to take us to our chosen destination without rebuilding the destination (‘Open Systems’; what were they again?), to expect us to buy into this infinitely more complex, dangerous, untried, hackable guff is either recklessly naïve or threateningly sinister.

Anyway, that’s what I think.  And now you’ll have to excuse me, my socks have just told my freezer that my toenails need cutting, and offered me a pickle fork to do the job, and are now trying to walk my feet jauntily into the dishwasher.


  1. If the Russian Mafia try to influence my recycling bin decisions there will be hell to pay!

  2. What I want to know is: what happens when we serially disobey the "things"? Does the disobedience accumulate processing angst? And then what happens?
    Scary. Is it coincidental that you posted this on Friday the Thirteenth?

  3. Yeah, Rog, make sure your excess polonium 210 is putin the right bin...

    Richard - that's four questions. 1 - 3 are technical, and I recommend you consult the experts. The answer to #4 is 'Yes'.