Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An emphasis on hardware

I would like to take this article as a jumping point.

It's interesting to run into an article of similar mind, if from a different position. The gist of the article being predictive: the recent advancements in software development in the current digital context is perhaps shifting advantageously towards hardware development. That is, micro development is now possible materially as well as virtually. My thoughts are an effort to move this development forward through a re-conceptualization of the environment, much as Brondmo did in the article, above.

It is my sense that the greater majority has largely forgotten about hardware. Software has become predominantly cross-platform while decent hardware comes in increasingly cheap package deals at your local tech shop (i.e., you don't even need to know what you're buying to run it). Yet, in place of this standard conception of hardware as 'the thing on which the software operates,' I would like to propose an alternative: materiality is just as equally infinite potential.

A few thought experiments.

First, take any old intersection with a traffic light during rush hour. Assuming two individuals knew of this intersection, a time to watch it, and had a means to control the traffic light, one could transform this innocuous location into a transmitter of information. That is, the cars themselves could become data packets, either ones and zeros or Morse code's dashes and dots.

Second, take any communication line (Ethernet, Coaxial, Fiber-Optic, etc.). In the standard conception, information goes into the line and comes out of the line with a bit of noise in the middle. This middle part seems particularly interesting to me. Is it possible to create information through the use of interference patterns in the actual signal? Perhaps the role could be that of a firewall. If the signal is sent incorrectly, the interference distorts it incoherently and, thus, it becomes noise. With the right signal, both the information being sent as well as the reception become coherent. Thus, in actuality, you are getting two things in one: encryption and decryption/firewall except at the hardware level.

Third, take, once again, a firewall, but a standard software-level firewall, in this case. This firewall, when it detects a malicious threat, assesses the degree of the threat, traces it, and disables its router at the hardware level. If this is too volatile a tech to give to consumers, then perhaps the firewall sends information to a centralized agency/computer that flags the threat, continues assessment and proceeds with physical dismissal of the router or a complete decommissioning of the computer.

The latter idea is likely dangerous, but it illustrates my point quite well: hardware is a virtually untapped domain given the new tools we have developed in the previous software era.