Thursday, October 5

Tech Myth: Resurrection

Here is week two of my column:

You always want to start general, getting the big picture capturing the essence of the subject within which all the details are comprehended. Unless you're a good author; in that case you keep your readers guessing until the end; I'm not that good. Because myth is a story transcending circumstance to communicate a universal truth, the truth should transcend media. That is, the essence of religious myth, literary myth, and technological myth should be the same. If I'm to follow the sages of Myth, I must say that essence is Resurrection.
Christians should not be at all surprised to find Resurrection in the center; Jesus was rather obsessed about dying to this world and gaining life through Him. Joseph Campbell, the greatest mythologist and non-Christian, discovered that all ancient mythology centers on death and return with something greater. I dare say every great modern novel and film, those containing transcendant truths. Even Pixar's The Incredibles features super heroes who die to the crime-fighting world and struggle to revive their old lives. The "hope of the resurrection" is what we all identify with.
Technology can be no different. Technology continually seeks to re-invent old pleasures (or boring business chores) with a new splash. I remember sharply the feeling of listening to American HiFi bicycling down a busy Chicago street on an iPod. There was a freedom in the music both recollecting old enthusiasm and new chainlessness. Books, comedy, family, learning, art, and even friendship find new and renewed meaning through technology. Seniors are receiving better eye sight through laser surgery than they ever experienced.
But it's not enough to state facts. Myth is story. So I regale my favorite resurrection story. Internet historian will recall the famous Browser Wars of the mid 90's. Back when the Web was young and easily influenced, two web browsers fought for popularity and to shape the future of the web: Internet Explorer and Netscape. In the heat of battle, Microsoft employees placed a ten foot "e", the Internet Explorer logo, on Netscape's law, surely akin to the ancient, Celtic fear tactics. After several bloody years (which equals half a century in Internet time) Navigator lost position beyond hope and then end was declared in 1999.
That, however, was only the beginning. Netscape declared its browser dead and sent its code into the chaotic netherworld of open source. Open source was known for being a lair of extremely intelligent geeks but rarely producing something useful. Still, Netscape hoped that its browser might find redemption there, renaming the project Mozilla. An army of geeks, especially fired Netscape employees, collected under Mozilla's banner to combat Internet Explorer's monopoly (and general hatred of Microsoft). The result was Phoenix, named after symbolic bird of resurrection. Renamed Firefox later, the new browser returned to the surface of the technology. It was named the Best Software of 2005 and any techie will agree it now kicks Internet Explorer's shiny, blue butt.
Now whenever I load up my resurrected Fiery Fox, I can't help but connect with this ancient myth. It reminds me of the needed death to inefficiencey and resurrection hope for my own soul and body and all I hold dear.

No comments: