I'm not ashamed to admit that I harbor unnatural feelings towards my servers. If programming and writing are both expressions of one's personality, then the content and systems on a server are a piece of you. Where it gets complicated is when you can transplant the ticking heart of a server–its logical brain–into another piece of hardware. You've transmigrated the soul without any of the messy ethical considerations. This is a common theme in modern sci-fi, because the notion of where the essence of who we are lives (in wetware or hardware) fascinates us.
I wrote today at the Economist's Babbage blog about my move from owning several rack-mounted servers to a couple of virtual private servers (VPSes), virtualized computers running on computers I'll never see or touch. The move was moving, and I'm hard pressed to understand why.
I couldn't understand why I was near tears. It was only a computer server I was shutting down, not pulling the plug on a life or saying goodbye to faithful pet. Nonetheless, my eyes were moist.
Virtualisation is the classic brain-in-a-jar scenario. If you, dear reader, were a brain in a jar with all your sensory inputs mapped into a simulation program a la "The Matrix," how would you know? As long as the illusion were perfect–and no Agent Smiths intruded–you could live your life in blissful delusion. So, too, do virtual servers perform: unaware.
Photo by…what the hell! Cory Doctorow? I swear, I just did a search for brains. Via Creative Commons.