Monday, August 12, 2013

Verum et factum reciprocantur seu convertuntur (The true and the made move on each others, G.B.Vico)

If simulation projects to anticipate, emulation goes further: It simulates to accommodate one or more planned actions whose objectives are beyond the emulation process itself. In systemic terms: Emulation consists in imitating the behavior of a given or hypothetical system (the guest) with the help of an existing and actually available system (the host) in order to allow carrying out specific tasks within the former. The distinctive element of the act of emulation is the focus upon "exact reproduction of behavior" of the guest through the host (cfr. Wikipedia). In other words, the ultimate goal, the output, of an emulating system is the cloning of an emulated system in all its distinctive properties. Emulation is not designed to introduce any permanent replacement in the real world: It's limited to help bringing back to (temporary) life otherwise extinct objects, or materializing (reifying) pro tempore future "objects". Therefore, emulation's greatest feature is at once its intrinsic limit too.
In my opinion, virtualization is instead a major turning point, an unprecedented leap toward the reign of known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns! Virtualization absorbs whole portions of the real world to reinvent and replace them once and for all. It generates new permanent realities (neoreality) while sending to fatal oblivion other consolidated realities (paleoreality). More on this later.
Now let's look at a few examples from real life.
We may think of physical objects such as radio, phone, tape recorder, camera, type writer, tv, magnifier, compass, book, clock, etc.. Now pick up your smartphone and look at many little icons representing apps installed on your device. You would be pleasantly surprised to see how your little phone is just allowing you carry around several of the objects listed above. Of course they are available to you not anymore in their old existence as physical objects but as simple applications or apps. The little icons often keep some visual reminiscence of those objects' previous life as physical things too. But that's not the real point!
Now stop for a moment and ask yourself a trivial question: What is in an app? What does an app do? The answer is ridiculously obvious. It simply lets you do what you used to do previously with the old physical version of the device (or simply 'object') it now represents on your smartphone screen. Right? The utility of use of the former physical object is still the same, if not improved. So what has happened here?
Imagine a very old and rooted human experience: Shopping. We define shopping as "an activity in which a customer browses the available goods or services presented by one or more retailers with the intent to purchase a suitable selection of them" (cfr. Wikipedia). For centuries we have identified this activity as an experience intimately tied into physical places made of "brick and mortar" (B&M) stores, so to speak. If you are my age (around 60) and ask your parents or grandparents what is a shop? They will give you an unambiguous description: "A building or part of a building where goods or services are sold."
Now think of, and name it. Do you still see the building, those tons and tons of B&M? No, obviously! What do you see instead? Probably a little icon or shortcut, for instance, on your home desktop screen pointing to a URL (Unified Resource Locator) sited somewhere in the cloud! Can you still shop as you and your ancestors have done for decades and centuries? Yes, indeed. So what has happened here?
Now imagine "fire". For centuries we have made fire to "generate heat and light". Fire "made it possible for people to cook food, increasing the variety and availability of nutrients. The heat produced would also help people stay warm in cold weather, enabling them to live in cooler climates. Fire also kept nocturnal predators at bay..." (cfr. Wikipedia).
Now fast forward to our experience: Do we still use fire to cook? Yes, but we have already invented microwave oven, induction and infrared cooktops, while the old cooking fire is on its way to become ultimately a fancy entertainment for our Sunday BBQ! So where is the fire?
Do we still use fire to heat up our bedroom, for instance? Only if we have a fireplace otherwise HVAC does the job. Where has the fire gone?
Think of your professionally decorated office in the business area of your town. How do you light it up on cloudy days or after the sunset? With fire? Of course not. You rather turn on a little switch on the wall or... touch an icon on your smartphone screen then voilĂ  all the light you have wished for. Where has the fire gone? And more in general, what exactly has happened here over centuries and decades?
Ok, enough snack for thought for one single day! See you reading my next post.

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