To The Editors,
I was praying in Jerusalem the other day and I thought of The Bad Version. Perhaps a circuit lit up in the mind of God that let these very letters flow—through my hand, out my pen,ontothepage, and at a mysteriously linked moment on a very distant page into your eyes, through your “code,” to your soul. I thought of James Somers’ article, “A Better Question,” and how it might hold the seeds of a better version for us all. My intention here is to share my thoughts, not to program you, but I won’t complain if these letters just happen to light you up.
We are not the first to dream of revealing and reveling in the secret inner workings of things. Such longings animated not only the boy-tinkerers who came to define our age but also the political-aesthetic program of radical thinkers and artists, and, long before this, the spiritual strivings of certain sages, towards whom my mind has recently turned.
Natural processes may seem to have become disenchanted, but they are still as fantastically complex, hierarchical, interlocking, and ultimately mystifying as ever before. What is different is our relationship to the grand mystery, and the fact that we no longer look for, or believe in, unity of our knowledge with its power. This is reflected beautifully in Somers’ evocation of the dominant system of our day, the computer, whose “layers of special-purpose machines” form a vertical universe defined not by integration but by the input and output of autonomous modules. This is indeed a metaphor, whose code could be “reused,” but it also seems tobeagoverning