chapter  5
19 Pages

Rethinking human identity in the age of autonomic computing: the philosophical idea of trace


As IBM has remarked,1 we progressively enter into the age of ‘autonomic computing’, which has risen ‘to the top of the IT agenda because of the immediate need to solve the skills shortage and the rapidly increasing size and complexity of the world’s computing infrastructure’. What is thus autonomic computing? It is ‘an approach to self-managed computing systems with a minimum of human interference. The term derives from the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls key functions without conscious awareness or involvement’, whose purpose is ‘to realize the promise of IT: increasing productivity while minimizing complexity for users’, by designing and building ‘computing systems capable of running themselves, adjusting to varying circumstances, and preparing their resources to handle most efficiently the workloads we put upon them’. This is worth noticing: autonomic computing displaces the role of human intervention while relying on an unpersuasive analogy with ‘the body’s autonomic nervous system’. This metaphor, however, has a precise role: it represents the subject as a part of a whole, which precedes the subject and runs after it. According to this metaphor, the subject emerges and is profiled only out of the interactions that are embedded into the selfmanaging system. We are, me and all the other objects, ‘data’ that are part of the same space (computing infrastructure). This is well recognised by the IBM proposal: ‘This new paradigm shifts the fundamental definition of the technology age from one of computing, to one defined by data. Access to data from multiple, distributed sources, in addition to traditional centralized storage devices will allow users to transparently access information when and where they need it’.