Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our Investigation of Ogle.com, Part 1

Clarke’s observation—that advanced technology will often be misconstrued as magic—is a good starting point as we begin to consider the sheen of omnipotence glowing somberly under the screen edges of Ogle.com. This most frequently visited of all sites is spoken of by the digital cognoscenti as a ‘search engine’, but it does not search; it finds. Is this not an intelligent function? Does it not demand an explanation that accounts not just for its computational action, but for its uncanny quickness, its possession of a facility of selection that we have hitherto in our history only seen before in intelligent beings born of other intelligent beings—namely, in persons—or in persons born not at all, but made, namely, spirits?

I have held my ear against the red steel walls of cargo containers housing server clusters in half a dozen locations spread across the city (and in how many other cities?). These are placed in plain view but away from public traffic: north of the Charles River dam, in that waste industrial zone; in formerly vacant lots adjoining the rail yards; in a spandrel space outlined by the Esplanade before and below, and by east- and west-bound express lanes on either side. What I have heard in each of these thickly-insulated partitions of the Ogle nervous system is a hum. Not the chuffing of an engine, built by and comprehensible to men, but a baffling chord thrumming in the air. The vibrations of unseen organs. On each of these encounters, I had to pull my face away from the container wall when my teeth began to ache in sympathetic harmony.

The nature of these facilities—their hiddenness and protective vibrations—has all the appearance of magic, even if we resist any explanation smacking of the primitive of superstitious. As we must.

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