Core wars 2016

When you run a program on a modern computer, the operating system puts a “fire wall” around your program. If some software bug causes your program to try to access core memory outside of its alotted area, the operating system prevents that from happening.

These fire walls prevent any individual program from inadvertently wreaking havoc on other programs. They are, essentially, why your entire computer doesn’t crash every time one program malfunctions.

Around forty years ago, in the early days of time-shared computers, the modern computer concept of memory fire walls did not yet exist. So, just for fun, people who did research on computer software created a game called “core wars”.

Each contestant would write a program that tried to fill up all of core memory. If your program was able to grow and fill up all of core memory before anybody else’s then you won the game.

As programmers developed ever more subtle tricks to figure out what was going on in each others’ programs, and use that knowledge to disable their opponents, the programs grew ever larger ane more complex. Until one day somebody had a different idea.

They just wrote an extremely stupid and tiny program that didn’t care about the other programs at all. It worked like a virus, rapidly replicating itself throughout all of memory before any of the other programs had a chance to respond.

And that was it — core wars was over. It turned out that “attacking with stupidity” was the ultimate weapon.

As far as I can tell, this is the campaign strategy of Donald Trump. His take on the issues is essentially random and ever-changing, because specific political positions don’t actually matter to him.

What does matter is taking down his opponents, so quickly and unexpectedly, that they don’t have time to draw a breath. Whether it’s the family of Ted Cruz, the manhood of Jeb Bush, or his now scattershot insults to Hillary Clinton, his strategy is to strike fast and aim low. He seems to do this apparently entirely on instinct, like a shark following a trail of blood.

This strategy can be effective not because of anything Trump actually says or stands for, but because viruses can be deadly. Fortunately, I think Hillary Clinton has a particularly hardy resistance to this particular strain of viral infection.

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