[extropy-chat] Survival

Russell Wallace russell.wallace at gmail.com
Thu Apr 12 22:10:13 UTC 2007

On 4/12/07, John K Clark <jonkc at att.net> wrote:
> But for the sake of argument let's assume I take your advice. Question: Do
> you think a computer running Windows Vista that was simulating a computer
> running Windows XT that was simulating a computer running Windows 2000
> that
> was simulating a computer running Windows 98 that was simulating a
> computer
> running Windows 95 that was simulating a computer running Windows 3.1 that
> was simulating a computer running DOS would outperform a new clean Linux
> box?

Ah, but "new clean Linux box" is an oxymoron - Linux is based on Unix, and
much of its design predates MS-DOS 1.0. Speaking of which, my Windows XP box
can still happily run early DOS programs. And both operating systems
typically run on x86 chips that retain outright binary compatibility back to
the 8088 in the late 70s, and can trace their direct ancestry further back
still, back to the Intel 4004, the very first microprocessor. And systems
with such deep lineage in fact outperform their "newer, cleaner"
competitors, perhaps not in flops/gigatransistor, but in the measure of
performance that counts: ability to solve real-world problems at affordable

Nor is this phenomenon at all peculiar to computers. The language we speak
right now traces its ancestry back through a thousand years and more of
polyglot accumulation of words from yet older languages. The alphabet we
write it in is older still, a direct derivative of the first true alphabet
whose letters were named after words in ancient Sumerian: aleph, beth,
gimel, daleth... nor has this survival been as a result of sheltering from
competition, on the contrary, the Sumerian-derived alphabet effortlessly
held its position against "newer, cleaner" phonetic alphabets. English _won_
in direct competition in the open market against all comers including the
"newer, cleaner" Esperanto and Lojban. And the minds we use to comprehend
all this are of course the product of four billion years of unbroken, step
by step evolution.

Being a "clean sheet of paper" guy myself, I can certainly sympathize with
the desire to imagine everything being swept away and replaced with ab
initio designs that are "cleaner" and "more efficient" in the geek senses of
the words. I too have dreamed up from-scratch CPUs, operating systems,
programming languages, network protocols... but all the evidence thus far
suggests that isn't how the world works.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20070412/3d6e1061/attachment.html>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list