Metaphor shear


Coined by Neal Stephenson the term metaphor shear is that moment when unpalatable technological complexities that we’ve smoothed over in the name of efficiency or usability suddenly intrude, and we’re left with the realisation that we’ve been living inside a metaphor as if it’s reality. And it’s that in that difference, between the idea and the reality where critical software systems can fail. For example (harrumph) we talk about the protection provided by software ‘architecture’ like partitions, firewalls and watchdogs as if these have a physical existence and permanence, in the same way as the real world mechanisms that they replaced, when in fact they’re ‘simply’ a collection of algorithms and digital ones and zeroes.

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  1. Intellectual Property in virtual worlds (and assorted issues): A discussion with Will Burns | Mona Eberhardt - April 17, 2018

    […] mean a thing to have all these “security” features. In a way that’s a Metaphor Shear, and it understandably makes people angry, scared, upset, etc., because that level of comfort in […]