Mythic Monday – Alternate Worlds
There is an interesting thing about studying Myth. Looking just at origin stories, there is a basic belief that each culture has but one. However, this isn’t true. Most cultures have many stories. Historically, this may be due to the constant culture clashes of warring tribes, where differing cultures absorbed parts of one another and partially merged in order to avoid utter annihilation. Politically, it may be because no matter how the rulers divided the maps, the people stayed more or less the same, and gods and goddesses were simply added into hierarchies (until we got to monotheism and saints started to serve this role). However, sociologically, what’s fascinating is that the stories can conflict and still both be viewed as true.
The human mind, apparently, has a desire to know and believe in the one universal truth, but doesn’t seem to have to deal with the cognitive dissonance around conflicting worlds. This has even been studied:
An initial study involved 50 three- and four-year-olds. Each child sat with two experimenters, a toy bear, a toy doll and a central pile of toy blocks. The first experimenter, located to the right, introduced the child to the doll Mary; together they pretended it was her bath-time and the child used one or more blocks as bath objects, such as soap. Then the second experimenter, located to the left, introduced the child to Bruno the bear. They pretended it was his bedtime and the child used one or more blocks in the game, for example as a pillow.
The crucial part came next, as the first experimenter told the child that Mary had grown tired and needed to sleep, whilst Bruno had woken and wanted to wash. Rather than using the toy block already established to be a pillow in Bruno’s world, the children, regardless of age, nearly always reached for a new block from the pile to use as a pillow for Mary.
In short, kids seem to resolve the conflict by constructing an alternate world for each story. In their minds, anything can happen within one world, but events in one world cannot cross over to the other. This keeps things simple and easily understood. Sure, we play with the idea here and there. We cross genres in the movies, comics and literature. However, even within these genres, you’ll find that there is a not-insignificant number of people who can easily point out half a dozen logical flaws in each story. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, the flaws seem to inevitably exist and leap right out at anyone who cares to look.
So, it would seem that we’re wired to allow for almost infinite flexibility but only so long as it stays segmented. So I have to ask, why do we insist on tearing down the walls?
I’ve seen numerous envionments, where for one reason or another, there are a mix of technologies in play. This makes sense. There are good reasons to use both Microsoft and Linux operating systems in an environment. The same goes for firewalls (Cisco/Astaro), endpoint protection (Sophos/Bit9) and word processing (MS Office/OpenOffice). Each of these technologies is powerful and can bring definite business advantages.
However, point here is that each should be kept isolated, as much as possible. From a security perspective, one can use flaws in one product to escalate an attack on another. Operationally, trying to connect diverse systems means that you are making both of them work in non-intended ways, which means that subject matter experts in both tend to point fingers at one another.
That’s not to say that every technology should be kept isolated. Not at all. Technology tends to fall into specific worlds. There are three primary Linux worlds: Ubuntu/Debian, SuSE and Red Hat. Each of these worlds have their own repositories, and are built to be more or less complete. Microsoft Windows tends be a bit less well defined, but it still has it’s set of technologies that are designed to inter-operate with one another and not necessarily with anything else. Yes, you can try to force it… but as the article shows, we don’t naturally think that way, so there may be problems.