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what if we talked of digital ‘weeds’ rather than ‘viruses’?

From Spam, by Finn Brunton, pg 89:

“Alan Solomon . . . a veteran antivirus researcher with a PhD in economics, critiqued the virus metaphor, suggesting that this medical/ biological metaphor of ‘virus’ is ‘too emotive’ . . . Instead, he proposed ‘weeds’ as a more appropriate concept for describing the threat of computer code.” 66 With “weeds” comes a very different culture of metaphors, of strong and weak ecosystems, each person cultivating their own garden every day to keep invasive species at bay. It is a much better metaphor for expressing one of the global computer network’s key points of weakness to “viral infection”: the monoculture of computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, often poorly patched and unmaintained by users, making the network as vulnerable as the cloned Cavendish banana trees are to fungus attacks. Without overstating the influence of metaphor, it’s striking to consider how much that nomenclature might have changed the practices of security and programming around self-replicating computer code: computers as gardens rather than bodies, with diverse software populations to be tended and pruned by attentive and self-reliant users, potentially capable of weed resistance in their interdependence, with the professionals as agronomists, breeders, and exterminators rather than doctors at the cordon sanitaire. 67

Categories: Pre 2020 reading notes

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