What did Ngnghm (which I pronounce “Ann”) think of Urbit? Some elements in Ann’s descriptions of Houyhnhnm computing (which I pronounce “Hunam computing”) were remindful of the famous Martian system software stack Urbit: both computing worlds were alien to Human Computing; both had Orthogonal Persistence; and both relied heavily on pure deterministic computations to minimize the amount of data to log in the persistence journal (as contrasted for instance with the amount of data to manipulate to compute and display answers to end-users). What else did Houyhnhnm computing have in common with Martian software? How did it crucially differ? How did they equally or differently resemble Human systems or differ from them? Ann took a long look at Urbit; while she concluded that indeed the three approaches were quite distinct, she also helped me identify the principles underlying their mutual differences and commonalities.
Posts tagged Persistence
Ngnghm, or Ann, examined how manual persistence was managed underneath Human computer systems, and contrasted with how Houyhnhnms (pronounced “Hunams”) automated its implementation. This led her to more general remarks about the compared architectures of Human computer systems and Houyhnhnm computing systems: Houyhnhnm computing systems can and do go meta, which to them is notionally down (not up, as some Humans would have it). Going meta allows Houyhnhm computing systems to enjoy qualities not found in Human computer systems, that can’t go meta.
Following our discussion on persistence, Ngnghm, or Ann as I call her, had plenty of questions about how Human computer systems held together when they can’t seem to get basic persistence right. But in return, I had even more questions about what Houyhnhnm computing systems could even be like, when all data persisted by default: What did the user interface look like? Was there no more save button? What happened when you copied or deleted files? Were there files at all? How did people deal with all the garbage? Were your mistakes forever? If you somehow hosed your machine, would it remain forever hosed? How did you test potentially dangerous changes?
Ngnghm, whom I call Ann, was fascinated by our keyboards: because of physiological differences between our races, similar devices had never been imagined by Houyhnhnm computing engineers. Now, as she was watching me closely, Ann noticed that I was punctuating most of my typing with recurring combinations of key chords. I told her I had no idea what she meant; and so she had me record and review how, after every sentence or so, or before changing activities, I was composing the sequence Ctrl-X Ctrl-S, or Command-S, or some other mantra that varied slightly with the application I was using. Interestingly, I wasn’t even aware that I was doing that before she told me! What was this mantra doing, she inquired? How could I possibly repeat it without even noticing — and why would I? I told her that depending on the application, each of these mantra saved the current file, and that typing it had become ingrained in me as a subconscious habit, because I used it so often, out of necessity. What does "saved" mean wondered Ann, and what made it a necessity?