I’ve been thinking about “virtualization” in various senses this week.
First of all, I’ve recently read some SF in which some characters are living (or might be living) in a virtual world that might be a subprocess of our own reality. I’m thinking both of Jonathan Lethem’s brilliant novel Chronic City and of Christopher Shay’s great Flurb story “IntheBeginning.”
Secondly, I’ve been listening to my son, Rudy, Jr., talking about how his and Alex Menendez’s internet company, Monkeybrains, can set up virtual machines for their clients to use as their “servers.” There’s a company called VMware that makes a business of selling virtualization tools.
So you might have two, or five, or more people using one and the same hardware box as their server, but with very little chance of interaction between their virtual machines. Ideally, there’d be no chance of seepage among the virtual machines, but in the real world, there’s always a hack. Rudy and Alex, as “Gods of the Cthonic Multiverse,” can certainly move information from one virtual machine to the other.
Trying to get my old free software programs to run in Windows 7, I discovered that I could download some free VM-style ware from Microsoft that pops up a window that’s running a virtual machine whose operating system is the older platform of Windows XP. And Cellab runs okay in there, and Boppers runs, kind of—except that it crashes a lot. And Chaos doesn’t run at all.
There are two odd things about depending on virtual machines to replicate past conditions. For one, there will inevitably come a time when more layers are necessary. Like in ten years, you might need to run Quibix 13, which runs a virtual machine with Windows 10, which runs a VM with Windows 7, which runs a virtual machine with Windows XP, which runs your legacy program.
[Drawn with Ultra Fractal using latest online rvr.upr params RudyGuadalupe]
And the second odd thing is that the simulations will be imperfect. So get glitches that are kind of like supernatural phenomena. A patch of fractal fuzz, a ripple in the wall, a friend who explodes into angular scraps of computer-graphics “fnoor.”
It might be nice to science-fictionalize a situation where someone is living amid multiple layers of VMs—with crashes and glitches. Of course this theme has been treated before, it’s all been done before, but there’s always the hope of doing it with a little more intelligence and soul.
One path out of the VM stack is to meta-virtualize your ware. That is, you “port” it. You abandon the old shell of code, and excise the soul, the core algorithm, and install that in a new body. That’s what I ended up doing with Chaos last week. I ported my favorite fractal, the Rudy Set, from the moribund Chaos ware into the vigorous younger program Ultra Fractal.
Looked at in another sense when you build a house, you’re making a virtual world for yourself. A place where it’s warm and dry and the bugs and dogs can’t come in. A beaver dam is a virtual world, and so is an anthill.
When my old pal Peter Lamborn Wilson, a.k.a. Hakim Bey, writes about congenial gatherings as “Temporal Autonomous Zones,” he’s writing about virtualization—see his online TAZ article. Sometimes you manage to fall into a scene that’s out of this world. An alternate world to live in, an all-meat VR.
The use of the word “virtual” seems jarring in a physical context, as we think of virtuality as wedded to the notion of immaterial software. But in some sense, matter is a kind of software made up of quantum computations, so lets do go ahead and say that, for instance, a picnic blanket creates a virtual world emulation of a living-room rug.
I’m always trying to break away from the received idea that we need computers for interesting things. Post-chip computation was a big theme in my novels Postsingular and Hylozoic, not that this feature of the books was widely remarked upon. I see chips as a passing fad, like mankind’s earlier obsessions with clockwork, with radiation, or with electricity, or with chemistry/alchemy. Like I always say, a rock is a computer. He that hath ears let him hear.
These days, with no particular writing project in mind, more and more things are spontaneously taking on the look of SF stories. It’s how I see the world, particularly when I don’t have any particular goals in mind.
The other day, I was watching a DVD of a concert movie from 1964, The T.A.M.I. Show , with a very wide range of acts, including, near the end, James Brown followed by the Rolling Stones.
I like and respect the idea of James Brown, but his shows have never actually done much for me—not even when I saw him live at the Louisville State Fairgrounds in 1962, oh my brothers. It’s exciting to see someone acting so weird but, for my taste, Brown was too inner-directed. I always had a sense that he doesn’t actually see the audience. This said, I recognize that many people, such as Thom Metzger, think he’s great—see Metzger’s historically weird 1991 novel Shock Totem (today available for $1.57 on e-Bay) about a guy addicted to shock treatment and James Brown.
The young Mick Jagger and his band follow James Brown in the T.A.M.I. movie, and I’d thought I’d see a similarity in their dance styles. Surely the older man was a kind of role model for the younger. Certainly their shoes are similar. But the Mick of 1964’s dance moves are lackadaisical, quasi-ironic, more like sketches of things he might do. Meta-dance. He’s like the Ultra Fractal port of the Chaos version of the Cubic Mandelbrot set. At the time, many thought Mick inferior to James, but he was in fact doing something different. He was using a new operating system.
What impresses me the most in this performance Mick’s eyes—he’s so alert, watching the audience, the other band members, continually aware of his surroundings, although at certain points he too goes into the chanting trance of the singer.
In one cross-stage shot I could see the big-mama Electronovision cameras they were using to simulcast this concert to movie theaters—as well as to record it for posterity. And here, again, I had an SF feeling. The trope of the new transmission device. For 3D, or maybe for feelies, or telepathy, or matter transmission. But not exactly those old things…something more…
I’d like to go to that 1964 T. A. M. I. concert. Suppose we assume that time-travel is impossible. So then, the only way to go to the show is to virtualize the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium of 1964, and worm into that VR. Assume that I want the musicians and the go-go dancers to look exactly like in the film. And maybe I’ll go ahead and have it be in silvery shades of black and white. How do I get there?
[Drawn with Ultra Fractal using latest online rvr.upr params RudyJellyfish]
The traditional way is to plug wires into my brain and jack me into a computer simulation. But—for reasons I’ve discussed before on this blog—I tend to think computer-based VR is never going to be all that convincing. The simulation should be in some sense physical, analog, perhaps based on quantum-computers, like the pocket-universe VRs that Christopher Shea talks about in “IntheBeginning.”
If you’re going physical, there’s no reason to dick around with corny wires in your brain. Make a damned tunnel to a bubble world. That’s the way to do it. I’m going there now. Maybe I’ll catch a buzz with Mick and Terri Garr—she’s the go-go dancer throwing her head around and then doing zombie-moves right behind Chuck Berry.
[Drawn with Ultra Fractal using latest online rvr.upr params RudyStarBranch]
Mick will have, of all people, the plain-jane songstress Leslie Gore on his arm. And we four will bop down to the beach and catch a ride on a chrome-gray UFO. We’ll ride the virtualization into the far future—all the way to 2010.