I'm a PC. I'm a Mac. I'm Linux

I made this image for a class discussion a few years back. I proposed that computer information systems have religious-like connotations. For instance, brand loyalty to Apple or Microsoft can be deeply personal, defended irrationally, and vendor lock-in makes it difficult to leave a "faith". The character Neo is a messianic figure with miraculous powers in a quasi-religious story about a struggle for freedom in a world where most people have no idea they are slaves. It seemed like a good way to illustrate the metaphor.

Comment by kris feenstra on January 31, 2014 at 4:25pm

I think you've got it wrong in calling it religious-like. This is how humans behave in almost all facets of life, and religion -- being part of human behaviour -- also fits the pattern. 

I also think you're wrong about Neo. Morpheus was struggling for freedom; Neo was struggling for validation.

Comment by James Cox on January 31, 2014 at 5:04pm

My 'wet drive' and 'I', are 'one'. All else is 'tool'.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on January 31, 2014 at 10:13pm

I think you've got it wrong in calling [behavioral connotations toward computer information systems] religious-like. This is how humans behave in almost all facets of life, and religion -- being part of human behaviour -- also fits the pattern.

I disagree that humans behave the same way regarding religion as with almost all other facets of life, Kris. I think religion has a special place in most people's lives, if undeservedly so.

Further, I think religious people commonly show great personal loyalty to religion, often do so for irrational reasons, and that clergy encourage followers to keep strong religious faiths (which discourages would-be apostates). For instance, it's not unusual for religious to disown LGBT teens or disregard evolution, which is religious loyalty trumping family loyalty and the last 155 years of science evidence, respectively.

I'm comparing this with years of industry-leading brand loyalty to computer technology products, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, AOL, etc., which is commonly due either to emotional (rather than rational) reasons, and vendor lock-in, which is encouraged (because it discourages switching to other products).

I am not saying the similarity exists to a similar extreme in technology product loyalty, or that it's impossible to draw comparisons between religious loyalty and loyalty to brands outside of information systems technology (although I admit no other industry comes to mind as readily).

I also think you're wrong about Neo. Morpheus was struggling for freedom; Neo was struggling for validation.

I actually said, "Neo is a messianic figure with miraculous powers". I attributed the struggle for freedom [from slavery] to the story, not necessarily as the theme for Neo as a character.

Motivations aside, as the protagonist, Neo resolved the main story conflict by restoring humanity's right to self-determination: preventing the imminent slaughter of everyone in Zion (a city of freed slaves) and freeing every slave who wanted out of the Matrix.

Continued...

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on January 31, 2014 at 10:14pm

From within the metaphor for religious faith and information systems brand loyalty, I added a second metaphor for the story of Linux and the quasi-religious story of the Neo character; emerging from a lowly place, initially struggling for validation, quickly displaying amazing powers, subversively challenging established orders, and finally becoming a savior that brings new freedom.

The esoteric nature of the Linux story obscures the metaphor. (My original audience for the image and discussion consisted of grad school computer geeks who had lived it, read all about it or both.) Anyone unfamiliar with that story won't understand how unexpected, revolutionary and important Linux has been, in and of itself, and beyond its own ecosystem.

Hacker, writer, and open source software activist Eric S. Raymond explains the impact of Linux in his seminal 1995 essay The Cathedral and the Bazaar, which uses similarly religious analogies and refers to Linux using qualities I've associated here with Neo; strength, speed, miracles, magical, surprising, defying imagination, etc.:

"Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet? Certainly not I. [...] Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew. [...] I believed that the most important software (operating systems and really large tools like the Emacs programming editor) needed to be built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation, with no beta to be released before its time. Linus Torvalds's style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites, who'd take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles. The fact that this bazaar style seemed to work, and work well, came as a distinct shock. As I learned my way around, I worked hard not just at individual projects, but also at trying to understand why the Linux world not only didn't fly apart in confusion but seemed to go from strength to strength at a speed barely imaginable to cathedral-builders."

Comment by kris feenstra on January 31, 2014 at 10:43pm

Politics, sports team preference, national pride, diet, opinions on energy policy and global warming views, can all be compared to religion with the same depth as you've done here. That's not an exhaustive list. These things are not like religion; they are examples of fairly common human behaviour -- behaviour which also applies to religion.

I actually said, "Neo is a messianic figure with miraculous powers". I attributed the struggle for freedom [from slavery] to the story, not necessarily as the theme for Neo as a character.

I see. My mistake.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on February 1, 2014 at 4:33am

Politics, sports team preference, national pride, diet, opinions on energy policy and global warming views, can all be compared to religion with the same depth as you've done here. These things are not like religion; they are examples of fairly common human behaviour -- behaviour which also applies to religion.

If that is true, and attitudes regarding-- sorry, is it still "almost all" or just "fairly common"-- facets of human behavior are comparable to religion, I don't see how it's also true that I'm "wrong in calling it religious-like". That is, unless you mean my example here is the rare exception and there is nothing similar about them to compare.

I doubt you do mean that, but if you do then I disagree. Whether they are easy or hard to compare, or whether such comparisons may be made rarely or commonly, I've shown they're comparable. So I compare them for the sake of discussion, which isn't exactly a novel approach.

[This is extraneous, but: I'm assuming you mean "in the same depth" as "in the same way", since a comparison is merited on actual similarity, not thoroughness or complexity. I'm genuinely interested. Walk me though it. For instance, how do irrational brand loyalty, proprietary vendor lock-in and ignorance of other choices compare when it comes to sports team preference? What's irrational about preferring Seahawks fandom over Broncos fandom (or any other NFL team fandom)? Where is the difficult, costly switch in going from NFL to NBA fandom? How is fandom of teams in both leagues often incompatible or impractical? Where are the advertising campaigns or sales representatives telling us to be Raiders fans but never Vikings fans, or NBA fans but never NHL fans? Where is the home-grown football team who enters the NFL out of nowhere, wins games using unorthodox methods, offers free admission, but few fans know about the team and most who do are misinformed? I'm trying to imagine even rough equivalences for how this works with opinions on energy policy, diet, and views on global warming.]

That's not an exhaustive list.
Maybe not, but the recursiveness and lack of content looks a little tired. Are 'opinions on energy policy' and 'views on global warming' really worthy of separate listings apart from 'politics'? Presenting a laundry list and claiming it's all distinctly comparable to religion in ways similar to my example doesn't count as presenting the actual comparisons, Kris. If you show me a pencil but never illustrate the point, you haven't made one.

I actually said, "Neo is a messianic figure with miraculous powers". I attributed the struggle for freedom [from slavery] to the story, not necessarily as the theme for Neo as a character.

Kris: I see. My mistake.

This is where the radial meets the road. I made the comparison to tap religious overtones in the Matrix movies and the Neo character and relate them to orthodoxies in information systems technology and to the Linux rebellion. Maybe TA isn't the ideal venue, but there is a Linux group here.
Comment by kris feenstra on February 1, 2014 at 1:44pm

This response has almost nothing to do with what I wrote. I don't know how to reconcile where you are with what was actually written.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on February 1, 2014 at 3:52pm

This response has almost nothing to do with what I wrote.

What you wrote was: "I think you've got it wrong in calling [behavioral connotations toward computer information systems] religious-like. This is how humans behave in almost all facets of life, and religion -- being part of human behaviour -- also fits the pattern."

You were crying foul, yes? I illustrated my comparison to make it clear, you responded to none of what I actually wrote, and posted this which seemed to be another protest:

"Politics, sports team preference, national pride, diet, opinions on energy policy and global warming views, can all be compared to religion with the same depth as you've done here. That's not an exhaustive list. These things are not like religion; they are examples of fairly common human behaviour -- behaviour which also applies to religion."

If you don't see the contradiction in what you wrote, consider: If humans behave in the same pattern in almost all facets of life, then the behaviors are similar and thus comparable. But you seem to be protesting on that basis: it's "wrong" to say behavior toward technology brand loyalty is like (or comparable to) behavior toward religion.

My responses have nothing to do with that?

I'll take your word for it. Maybe you understand your point because it's in your head, but I don't understand it. There's not much of it laid out here on the page. I've been asking you to explain. What do you mean?

I don't know how to reconcile where you are with what was actually written.

I don't know either. My take is that you haven't actually written much and what you did write is unclear, but apparently protestive and self-contradictory. Unless you're willing to elaborate on what seems to be an objection to my comparison here, I don't think there's much more to say about it.

Comment by kris feenstra on February 1, 2014 at 6:18pm

You were crying foul, yes?

Sure.

 I illustrated my comparison to make it clear, you responded to none of what I actually wrote.

It wasn't relevant to my point.

and posted this which seemed to be another protest:

It was a clarification.

If humans behave in the same pattern in almost all facets of life, then the behaviors are similar and thus comparable.

No, I am saying they are the same at their foundation, not similar. 

What you said was, "For instance, brand loyalty to Apple or Microsoft can be deeply personal, defended irrationally, and vendor lock-in makes it difficult to leave a "faith". So the religious-like traits we have revealed here are loyalty which can be deeply personal and can be defended irrationally, and some implied religious barrier which makes it difficult to leave a "faith", the analogue of which is vendor lock-ins. Those are just generic human behaviours which are not really specific to religion. There was no need to draw the comparison as you are basically just comparing a thing -- generic human behaviour -- to itself.

Would you say that humans are cheetah-like in that they bear live young, and have lungs? At that depth you aren't comparing anything; you are just describing the typical traits of mammals which both animals happen to be. Statistically, it can be assumed that both animals will have those characteristics just by referencing their parent class -- mammals -- with no need to reference each other.

At best what you've done is extraneous, but that's not really the issue here. You've needlessly linked religion and computer informations systems. On an atheist site, there is negative sentiment toward religion, so you've needlessly linked that sentiment. It's closer to name-calling than a meaningful comparison. It's nonsense.

I am addressing that single, quoted line. As for why I am not addressing the Matrix specific aspects of your metaphor, I don't have a problem with that. I said I was mistaken regarding the Neo comment, but apart from that you are actually comparing things specific to the Matrix narrative to computer systems. It illustrates something beyond that which could have been assumed without the comparison. On the other hand, humans having irrational devotion to iconic groups and those groups pressuring loyalty? No shit? You don't say.

Comment by Gallup's Mirror on February 2, 2014 at 1:37am

[what (you) actually wrote] wasn't relevant to my point.

I don't know what that means.

No, I am saying they are the same at their foundation, not similar.

I don't know what that means.

What you said was, "For instance, brand loyalty to Apple or Microsoft can be deeply personal, defended irrationally, and vendor lock-in makes it difficult to leave a "faith". So the religious-like traits we have revealed here are loyalty which can be deeply personal and can be defended irrationally, and some implied religious barrier which makes it difficult to leave a "faith", the analogue of which is vendor lock-ins.

I said a great deal more than what I wrote in the image caption, including the analogous importance of religion and technology in people's lives (showing the latter as: most of the top brands for loyalty are technology companies) and challenges to established orthodoxies.

Those are just generic human behaviours which are not really specific to religion. There was no need to draw the comparison as you are basically just comparing a thing -- generic human behaviour -- to itself.

I don't think vendor lock-in and resistance to apostasy in religion are generic human behaviors. I don't think you've demonstrated they are, beyond making the claim and repeating it in different ways.

You can swap a company fleet from Chevy to Ford or switch parties from Democrat to Republican without the same level of resistance comparable to what's encountered in switching an office from Windows to Linux, or leaving iPhone for Blackberry, or analogously, leaving Islam for Christianity, or leaving Christianity and becoming an atheist.

Would you say that humans are cheetah-like in that they bear live young, and have lungs?

I might, if just about everyone owned a Cheetah, and thought they had gills and laid eggs (if not for mandatory spaying and neutering), and there was a small group giving away free Cheetahs and defying a billion-dollar 'Cheetah breeder' industry bent on perpetuating the myths.

Statistically, it can be assumed that both animals will have those characteristics just by referencing their parent class -- mammals -- with no need to reference each other.

According to the League of Cheetah Breeders, the world's most popular provider of Cheetahs, that's not true.

Consider the Platypus, a mammal that lays eggs. It also has hard-to-see gills, just like a Cheetah! For important information about the nature of Cheetahs, common misconceptions like this one, photos of real Cheetah eggs, see the manual that comes with your Cheetah, or learn about Cheetahs on your local news, like the CheetahNBC network!

I don't see much purpose in comparing lungs and reproduction in humans and Cheetahs because it's not important to very many people, unlike attitudes on religion and technology.

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