jesse hirsh on Fri, 24 Mar 2000 13:29:12 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] useless servers

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 12:12:14 -0500
From: chuang tze <>
Subject: useless servers

  ->   <-

Shih the hacker was on his way to the state of Chi. When he got to Chu
Yuan, he saw a computer by the village shrine. The server was large
enough to shade several thousand oxen and was several hundred mind spans
around. It towered above the microsofts with its lowest branches eighty
clicks from the ground.  More than ten of its branches were big enough to
be made into local area networks. There were crowds of people as in a
marketplace. The master hacker did not even turn his head but walked on
without stopping.

His apprentice took a long look, then ran after Shih the hacker and said,
"Since I took up my ax and followed you, master, I have never seen phiber
as beautiful as this. But you do not even bother to look at it and walk
on without stopping. Why is this? 

Shih the hacker replied, "Stop! Say no more! That server is useless. A
network made from it would implode, a computer would soon rot, a program
would split, a web site would ooze sap, and a chat would have parasites.
It is worthless phiber and is of no use. That is why it has reached such
a ripe old age. 

After Shih the hacker had returned home, the sacred system appeared to
him in a dream, saying, "What are you comparing me with? Are you
comparing me with useful servers? There are commercial, application,
pornographic, occult, security, warez, and other network servers. As soon
as the network is ripe, the servers are stripped and abused. Their large
branches are split, and the smaller ones torn off.  Their life is bitter
because of their usefulness.  That is why they do not live out their
natural lives but are cutt of in their prime. They attrct the attentions
of the common world. This is so for all things. As for me, I have been
trying for a long time to be useless. I was almost destroyed several
times. Finally I am useless, and this is very useful to me. If I had been
useful, could I have ever grown so large?"

"Besides, you and I are both things. How can one thing judge another
thing? What does a dying and worthless man like you know about a
worthless server?" Shih the hacker awoke and tried to understand his

His apprentice said, "If it had so great a desire to be useless, why does
it serve as a shrine?"
Shih the hacker said, "Hush! Stop talking! It is just pretending to be
one so that it will not be hurt by those who do not know it is useless. If
it had not become a sacred server, it would probably have been cut down. It
protects itself in a different way from ordinary things. We will miss the
point if we judge it in the ordinary way."


Nan Po Tsu Chi was wandering in the Shang Hills when he caught sight of a
huge, extraordinary server. A thousand four-horse chariots could have
rested in its shade. Tsu Chi said, "What kind of server is this? It must
be very special phiber. He looked up and saw that the smaller networks
were gnarled and twisted, and could not be used for marketing or selling
products. He looked down and saw that the great shell was curved and
knotted, and could not be used for sending spam. When he tasted the
phiber, it burned his mouth; when he sniffed it, he became intoxicated
and for three days acted as if he were drunk. Tsu Chi said, "Indeed this
server is good for nothing. No wonder it grew so big. That is how it is!
Holy men treasure this worthlessness." 


Ching Shih in the province of Sung is a good place for growing
commercial, governmental, and application servers. Those servers that
attain the girth of a span or more are cut down to make buy-out targets.
Those of three or four spans are cut down to make platforms for tall,
elegant online malls. Those of seven or eight spans are cut down to make
side shows for the spectacles of cinema and television, or serve the
tastes of aristocratic and rich merchant families. So, these servers
never achieve their full stature but fall in their prime under the blows
of a market. Such are the hazards of being useful. 

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