kill -9 $$

Back in the dark ages, before web sites had feeds, I’d visit the website of a Bay area consulting firm once or twice a month. It was a fun place were the nutty ideas of the sixty’s counter culture would get framed up for sale to moguls of silicon valley. Never mind that Apple sues Apple; it was all very chummy; these folks all went to school together during the 60s.

One of the meta-meme’s I captured from that venue was the trick of importing ideas from the natural world – e.g. ecology, biology, agriculture, sociology, evolution – into my own problem spaces – i.e. software architecture, project management, business architecture, etc. Though fraught with opportunities for error, this is an extremely fecund technique.

Here’s a nice example, pointed out by Sam of the technique.

Which brings our attention to the term apotheosis.

A mechanism by which one cell dies if it becomes severely mutated as a means of protecting the entire organism.

Traditional Apache HTTPD has a very very primitive example of apotheosis. There you have a swarm of child processes that handle the incoming HTTP requests. You can configure these children to commit suicide after N requests.

I have built systems where processes commit suicide for assorted reasons. Lack of customer is one. Memory bloat is a common one. It is often a lot easier to have them die than fix all the legacy problems that cause them to leak this or that resource. And then I have built systems where suicide and murder are used when various handshaking patterns fail. These are useful when you can’t control some of the components.

But to tell the truth I find the apotheosis idea much more interesting at the social network level. Since it connects to the whole suite of puzzles that are discussed in Group Thing, Exit, Voice, and Loyality, and go by various cliches: “Seppuku,” “Fall on Your Sword,” “Spend more time with my family.” And in turn reminds me of this marvelous quote.

To the untraveled, territory other than their own familiar heath is invariably fascinating. Next to love, it is the one thing which solaces and delights. Things new are too important to be neglected, and mind, which is a mere reflection of sensory impressions, succumbs to the flood of objects. Thus lovers are forgotten, sorrows laid aside, death hidden from view. There is a world of accumulated feeling back of the trite dramatic expression–“I am going away.” – Theodore Dreiser in “Sister Carrie”

This is the kind of blog posting that requires a disclaimer. No this is not about any current situation in any portion of my many lives. If it were I would not have posted it!

3 thoughts on “kill -9 $$

  1. Ben HYde

    Steve Burbeck commented but I managed to delete the comment while dealing with the 1000+ spam comments that arived today. Here’s what he wrote:

    “…sucide and murder are used when various handshaking patterns fail. These are useful when you can’t control
    some of the components.” This is precisely the situation that motivates the apoptosis idea when dealing with the “out of control” complexity in large multicellular systems.

    There’s an interesting distinction between sepuku and “fall on your sword” Falling on your sword usually has the connotation of sacrificing yourself for a superior or perhaps scapegoating yourself — a very “Western” notion. Sepuku usually has the connotation of removing yourself due to something like “shame” at your failure to live up to the expectations of your role in society. That is, sepuku benefits a whole social system whereas “falling on your sword” benefits superiors in your particular hierarchy. Apoptosis is like the former, benefiting the whole organism, not like the latter.

  2. Ben HYde

    I agree there are facinating subtle differences in those words. But realy, if you don’t live in high-loyality cultures (sometimes these are labeled honor cultures) then I think it’s very hard to see thru to the real meaning of acts like these.

  3. djhbrown

    As one who has been pushed on his (or their) sword many a time and an amateurish student of Japanese and Catholic societies, i can advise that sepuku is exactly what the Shogun desired of his samurai – not so they could save their own faces (that’s just a Machiavellian device used by all Princes of Power in all countries), but rather to save the bacon of the Shogun by taking the blame for unsuccessfully trying to implement his bad decision.

    This concept is known in Washington, Wall Street and Westminster by the term “fallguy”. Like Oswald. Or the Bishop of whereveritwas. Or Dr David Kelly. But not the Pope. Not the Shogun. Not Tony. They have two faces, so don’t need to save one.

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

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