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Hypnos' Blog

Server economy

As you mates have probably heard, a power outage hit San Francisco yesterday, knocking out power at the Three Rings office and at our server colocation facility.

The power blinked off and on here for about an hour, which wasn't bad, though both the programmers and artists lost their unsaved work when the power first went down.  After the power cut out twice more to our computers, we gave up and played some games of pool and telephone pictionary.  Theories on what was going on varied, but the most popular seemed to be that there was a giant lizard demolishing the Bay Bridge, and heading our way.

Unfortunately, the outage of our servers was a bigger problem, and while power was restored pretty quickly, and Calrissian got the office connected to the outside world through DSL as soon as power was up, I quickly realized just how much of my job is tied to the 'net and access to the Three Rings databases: everything.

Obviously, I couldn't go on duty as the game servers were down.  I couldn't process mail payments in the office because I couldn't access people's accounts to subscribe them or credit doubloons.  I couldn't read the forums or docktart about the latest release because the game was offline.  I couldn't even update the iPod mail in entries list because I couldn't confirm the existence of the accounts to make sure they were spelled correctly!

As I checked through my list of things to do and crossed off each one as impossible to do at that juncture, I became aware of a deep and resounding quiet.  It was the quiet of not being connected to Puzzle Pirates in any way.

I couldn't be petitioned.  I couldn't be e-mailed.  I couldn't be PMed, or sent tells, or /complained.  I suppose I could have been called, but no one did.

Coincidentally, I've recently been reading Radical Evolution, a book about the rapid change in the daily life of human beings and the accelerating growth curve of technology.  Some of you may be familiar with it as Moore's Law.  In the third chapter, the author Garreau talks about the heretofore unseen emotional connection between humans and their machines.  People who are disconnected from their portable game players or who lose hard drives experience panic attacks and intense feelings of loss.

"The next time you feel like throwing up when your connection to the cosmos is ruptured, the next time the innermost recesses of your brain recognize a machine as part of you when it does, remember this [...] The machines have not only changed you, they have become you." (64-65)

While I didn't experience panic or disorientation when disconnected from the servers, I did stop and think about how much my entire life hinges on technology that came into common use well after I was born.  My livelihood and many of my work-related interactions with people day to day is based around virtual items and machines.  The people I talk to and interact with are obviously real, but the subjects we speak of and the means by which we  have the discussion are all completely reliant on the connections between machines.

When I'm walking from the bus and I think of questions I cannot answer, I jot them down to look them up when I get home.  I have e-mail and IM clients open constantly, so that my brother can let me know what he's doing in dance class or my friends hundreds of miles away can send me links to interesting news articles.  And in my job, I am most recognized as a perpetually sleepy cartoon god in a shower cap and bathrobe.

Are we, as the book seems to be implying (though I haven't finished it yet) becoming cyborgs, making our machines physical, mental, and emotional extensions of ourselves?  I certainly find that I answer to Hypnos as readily as I answer to my given name.  If Puzzle Pirates were suddenly wiped out of existence, I'd miss my cute little pirate characters.

On the other hand, people have been forming emotional attachments to material things since long before computers.  Children (and adults!) cuddle stuffed animals, craftsmen have their favorite tools, martial artists take special care of their weapons.  I like my old tea mug that I drink from each morning, even if it has a crack in the handle.  I carry the same bag to work every day because I feel assured it has all of the things I need for my daily work- my key pass, my notebook, my scheduler, my wallet, my cell phone.

We often value what represents our everyday lives because it represents stability to us.  An appreciation of stability is a human trait that has likely been with us a very long time.

So as I sat here, silently rooting for little blinky lights to start blinking, and servers to warm up and come back online, I think the heart of it was wanting to get back to my planned day and get the work done that I like doing each day.  Having the servers back was comforting. Resistance was futile.

Comments:

Posted by Shannal, Midnight

Now I'm sad that it wasn't a giant lizard :(

Anyway, we totally all felt that loss too. I myself ended up on Isketch with flaggies - we communicated through our flag forums which room to go play in. Then I was hopping around from Opal to Hunter to Sage and finally back to Midnight with some hearties that I was chatting with through AIM. So yeah, we felt the loss off YPP, but we still all have our go-arounds, as we're such good friends and are connected in ways other than just YPP, even though that's our original connection.

July 25, 2007 at 09:42 PM PDT | permalink

Posted by Ttami

[quote]the author Garreau talks about the heretofore unseen emotional connection between humans and their machines.[/quote]

... and vice versa.

July 26, 2007 at 02:03 AM PDT | permalink

Posted by Shinrai

Wait, everybody lost their unsaved work? Don't you guys have UPSes on those PCs? o.O

July 26, 2007 at 03:37 AM PDT | permalink

Posted by Shanoyu

I don't think you have much to worry about Hypnos. If anything, we have become less reliant on the data and networks that we use to transport information as well as ourselves over the past forty years.

Take for example the 1973 NPRC fire, and compare it to data that's been processed and archived within the past 10 years.

http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/fire-1973.html

August 07, 2007 at 07:51 PM PDT | permalink

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