Attack of the Software Giants

It’s not hard to conjure them up: dwarves, trolls, elves, swan princesses, copper, silver and golden forests, white stags — all primordial software, some of the most successful programming ever written — fairy tales.

We carry these algorithms in our collective unconscious. And even though the sacred runes faithfully inscribed by the Brothers Grimm and others have been pirated and hacked by embellishers and pillagers from the likes of Perrault to Disney, somehow the intrinsic luster of the tales remains undiminished. Their relevance waits patiently to be rediscovered.

Following the actions of a recent leader of the free world, one felt a kinship with the kid in the Emperor’s New Clothes. “Am I the only one who sees him like this?”

Any child of the sixties is likely to have had a Goldilocks moment, having crashed in the bears’ pad, scarfed up their granola and punctured their water beds, if not their chairs.

According to Robert Bly, western men have been channeling Iron John whether we know it or not. Bly speaks of the moments in life where amidst the horizontal movements of the mundane we may suddenly awaken to find ourselves encountering the vertical component of our own story – perhaps even heroic – slaying an attorney or rescuing a Significant Other.

I was reminded of this just the other day, in a small-scale epiphany: One of the guilty pleasures of Googling is searching my name, whether I’m Feeling Lucky or not.

I go to the back of the list, looking for obscure connections, checking on the total number of references, wondering if there are any other Jim Metzners out there and if they have as many hits. And then the realization comes home as I stare into the magic window on the unreflective screen: echoes of the arch-browed queen – as imagined by Disney, the anorexic Veronica on steroids and acid – gazing into her version of an LCD, intoning a voice recognition query: “Who is the fairest of them all?”

And lest you think this is the only such reverberation from our storied and programmed past, it is said that Alan Turing, father of modern computing (not to mention software), victim of the witch hunts of his day, chose as his final meal an emblem from a favorite bit of code – a poisoned apple.

Jim Metzner