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Updating Our Config Files — A Dream About The Future


Last night, I dreamed I had to run around and update everyone’s config files.  Their settings were out of date.  I knew they would run better with new settings, and so I updated those files, one after another.  When I woke up, I realized that the dream wasn’t talking about literal config files — it was talking about something deeper, the underlying principles and rules by which most of us operate.  Something in our basic configuration as a society isn’t working anymore.

Before I lose you, a config file is really just an old school word for settings.  It’s the file where certain software stores the basic settings it needs to operate. But there’s a subtle difference. I work with web sites and I update settings all the time — but I don’t often update the config files which tend to stay the same except under unusual circumstances.  These are very basic settings that underlie everything the software does.  In a sense, they’re almost unconscious, which is what our own “configuration settings” tend to be.

Which leads me to a question:  Could it be that our society is out of whack because we’re running on bad settings?  It’s true that if you run new software on old settings (or old software on new settings), it will probably break.  There will be missing pieces or simply wrong information.  Could society be trying to run new software on old settings?  Or old software on new settings?  Or both?

It was the last part of the dream, right before I woke up, that made me think its import might be larger scale.  I dreamed I had to take a bus to get to a client’s office, and the client was Barbara Sondag.  She needed her config file updated too.  Barbara represents “Municipal Government” to me, and when I woke up, I had the distinct impression that it wasn’t just people who needed settings updates — municipal government, and maybe government in general, needs to update its settings too.  

This detail could be related:  Late last night, Chris said to me after reading headlines, “Why are things starting to go well?  I’m not used to things going well...”  And we pondered together whether there has been a fundamental shift in people’s thinking that makes it harder for them to accept things like endless war, total surveillance, and many of the other insults of modern life.  War and surveillance are part of the old configuration.  People and peace are part of the new one.   

If Chris is correct that things are starting to go better for a change, then maybe the settings updates I was doing in my dream are already happening.  People and institutions are beginning to do this on their own.  That would be the way to go, because I know that in real life, no one can give another person or institution a settings update. Just as you can’t legislate morality, the kind of update I’m talking about can only come from within.  

But once the update is made, everything changes for the better.  We need change to have hope, and we need hope to carry on.  So bring on the settings updates!  Only then we can we get with the new program, which hopefully will serve us better than the one we have which is old, clunky, crashy, and frustrating.

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Chucking the Chum

The config file is often a hacker's portal to some diverted end, nefarious or otherwise. All the many variables and settings, infinitesimally small details and fixed values..they all count. Change one little thing and suddenly you find nothing works, or your beloved URL is suddenly landing at a site for discount pharmaceuticals from Blackmarketistan.

This juicy dream sets the stage for all kinds of speculation, and it intersects with something on my mind these days. Recently I read about the excommunication of Spinoza from the Jewish community in Amsterdam. We can set the date of that event as down the road from the Inquisition a bit, with enough time passed to rearrange furniture, but not renovate buildings.

The banishment proclamation for Barack Spinoza was particularly harsh. The question of why that should be so for a twenty something who had yet to publish a word is very intriguing. What could be so threatening? Well, as it turns out, the ideas that Spinoza would later write out, in a language not unlike computer code, would be such a tweak to the config files that no sectors of the program could still run unaffected.

His simple supposition that 'God' is manifest in nature, and not a personable divinity, sets a whole train of trouble in motion. Such as the leaky logic behind a people being chosen people, a given scripture being given, and firmly fixed sets of commands, lifestyle mandates, etc., revealed as rather arbitrary.

Factor in the bad with the good, so much for exceptionalism. No wonder the charges from the status quo came with such force. But Spinoza himself took it in stride, saw it coming you might say. It didn't seem to muddle his determination in the least. This is all to say that our socio-religious program, now almost five hundred years out of date, is still bumping along, buggy as ever, mainframe upgrades be damned.

And keep in mind, this is just one local, and somewhat later-day script. If we're really interested in an iteration of the overall code that'll support a new paradigm, we're going to need -in the immortal words of Chief Brody from Jaws- a bigger boat.

 
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Light

It has been fascinating to watch the old scripts fail and the older operating systems appear buggy. Perhaps the American Decade of Darkness is receiving some glimmers of light flickering through the cracks. I do think citizens need to continue to help push these things along. A few of the bigger rays of light I see include:

Larry Summers, pal of big banks, unable to take the job at the Fed.
Obama, ready to bomb Syria, stops.
NSA secrecy and unconstitutional spying on Americans, unmasked.
Lots of local business and building activity

Even a few rays of light can help a plant grow, and we've all seen plants growing in impossible circumstances, such as out of a rock.

Of course, we still love shooting things with guns, haven't noticed global warming destroying cities, are obsessed with the trivial, and so on.

If settings get changed, or a program gets updated, it impacts other things that are running. There also comes a time when one MUST update, or stop using computers. Software written a decade ago may not understand things like embedded video or style sheets and will break a browser. A new camera might not connect to an old computer.

Likewise, a new operating system can cause older programs to break. Backward compatibility can only be maintained for so long. Look at all the wonderful information you have stored on floppy discs or Syquest cartridges. Remember the popular ZIP drives and discs? If you didn't transfer them to new devices, your data is stuck in limbo.

I think I'm rambling a bit, but I agree that new settings and systems seem to be on order for all of us. Update early to avoid hassles. : )

 

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