Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Zen and the art of editor maintenance

I recently encountered a sentence in an article I was editing that stopped me in my editing tracks by its multi-dimensional profundity:

The best form of security for a computer file is for the file to have never existed on the computer.

Before I could move ahead, I needed to call up a couple of my friends to see if they could unlock the mystery of that text.

Drago Kovic is a philosophy professor at Georgetown whose most popular class is on the roots of existentialism. Florian Stocchi is a consultant to DoD on matters of cyber warfare. The following is the gist of what they had to say.

DRAGO: The phrase "never existed on the computer" implies that the file existed elsewhere. But if it's a "computer file," where can it exist other than on a computer?

FLORIAN: If the concern is the security of files on a computer, but this file existed somewhere off of the computer, then why would it need any security at all?

DRAGO: And if it doesn't need any security because it exists somewhere other than on the computer, in essence and for purposes of this analysis, it is nonexistent.

FLORIAN: I concur. In that case, there is no need to even consider its security.

As I expected, Drago and Florian pointed me in the only direction possible. I deleted the sentence from the article.