Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’
For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends? — Aristotle – Nicomachean Ethics – 384-322 BCE
One might wonder, after a period of 2,000+ years, has there been any (what is called) “progress”.
Surely we can distinguish between “progress” in the area of technology and progress in other areas such as culture and society.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) lived more than 2000 years ago . Surely, if Aristotle were transported from ancient Greece to the modern world he would find the progress in science and technology absolutely astounding. But, if he were to look at our social relationships 2000 years distant from his own time what would he discover? Would Aristotle say that, after two millennium, we have made any progress in human relationships?
Perhaps he would say we have taken several steps back from the “golden age” of Greek culture.
Aristotle on Friendship
Aristotle wrote about friendship in Nicomachean Ethics. He divided friendship into three categories.
Friendship of young people seems to aim at pleasure; for they live under the guidance of emotion, and pursue above all what is pleasant to themselves and what is immediately before them.
Those who pursue utility . . . sometimes . . . do not even find each other pleasant; therefore they do not need such companionship unless they are useful to each other; for they are pleasant to each other only in so far as they rouse in each other hopes of something good to come.
What’s in it for me?
According to Aristotle, Pleasure and Utility friendship is partly motivated by a “what’s in it for me” attititude. The friendship exists only insofar as there is some benefit – pleasure or utility – that can be derived from the relationship. When the benefit erodes, so does the friendship
Therefore those who love for the sake of utility love for the sake of what is good for themselves, and those who love for the sake of pleasure do so for the sake of what is pleasant to themselves, and not in so far as the other is the person loved but in so far as he is useful or pleasant.
And thus these friendships are only incidental; for it is not as being the man he is that the loved person is loved, but as providing some good or pleasure. Such friendships, then, are easily dissolved, if the parties do not remain like themselves; for if the one party is no longer pleasant or useful the other ceases to love him.
Perfect (or True) Friendship
Finally, Aristotle defines Perfect Friendship:
Perfect friendship is the friendship… [of those] …who are good, and alike in virtue; for these wish well alike to each other qua good, and they are good themselves. Now those who wish well to their friends for their sake are most truly friends; for they do this by reason of own nature and not incidentally; therefore their friendship lasts as long as they are good-and goodness is an enduring thing. And each is good without qualification and to his friend, for the good are both good without qualification and useful to each other.
Here is how Philosophy Professor Dean A. Kowaalski sums it up:
So, for Aristotle, the highest form of friendship occurs between persons of equally good moral character (virtue), which is enhanced due to their interactions. Such friendships are admittedly rare; when they do obtain, it is because the friends spend a great deal of time together, developing a secure mutual trust. Their relationship is fostered by participating in joint ventures and engaging in activities that exercise their own virtues for the betterment of the other and the friendship. All of this is done primarily for the sake of the other person (and not for selfish purposes), even though their interests have grown so close together that it is difficult to separate them. Consequently, complete friendship results in a sort of second self, a true partner.
There may be a Myth of Progress. In some contexts, progress seems obvious perhaps because of the selection or limitation of what one considers. Surely, “progress” is an in-your-face fact when one looks only at technology and our understanding of how the world works – science in general and physics in particular.
But has there been any progress in social relationships? Or perhaps there been a degradation brought about by the progress in technology. Perhaps the more technology we have the greater distance we can put between ourselves and other people and still call them “friends”… to the point that they are no friends at all… merely markers or counts on a Facebook page or the number of Twitter followers.
Technology is “enabling”. Enabling to make True Friends as Aristotle would define it? Technology may simply enable those who have a “what’s in it for me” motive of finding merely pleasure or utility in others. “Friends for pleasure” is now easy to find on the Internet. Friends to scam and friends for transactional relationships are easy to find as well. Have your “friended” or “liked” Starbucks or other organization or business? Why are they your friends?
So, if Aristotle were to step into the 21’st century world of technology there would not be much he would understand. We have made fantastic progress. And, I think he would agree based on his writings of Universal Physics, Human Physics, Animal Physics, and Metaphysics of this time. But Politics and (Nicomachean) Ethics where the above quotes on friendship came from? Any progress here in two millennium?
What Aristotle wrote 2,000+ years ago about friendships being only for utility and only for pleasure and easily dissolved is as relevant for today as it was in ancient Greece.
It might be a revelation to you if you examine your friendships within Aristotle’s framework – friends of pleasure; friends of utility; and perfect friends.
How many perfect friendships do you really have? Has technology been a benefit or a liability? And have we made any progress in two millennium in answering Aristotle’s basic question, “how should men best live”?
Read about Dunbar’s number – If You’ve Got More Than 150 Facebook Friends, They’re No Friends at All
Alone Together. Why we expect more from technology and less from each other
Innovative companies think different…
Suppose you heard that executives at a company like Netflix told their employees to go around and try to break the underlying technology that delivers its services to millions of customers.
The basic philosophy of this directive being…
The best way to avoid failure is to fail constantly.
Sounds crazy. But is it? Here is a bit of more conventional wisdom
If we aren’t constantly testing our ability to succeed despite failure, then it isn’t likely to work when it matters
Nextflix created some software called the Chaos Monkey that goes around breaking parts of the infrastructure that delivers its services. The idea is to substitute resiliency for a dependence on reliability. Is it easier to make things reliable or resilient?
You can read what others think about the philosophy of the Netflix Chaos Monkey here
Read about the Chaos Monkey…
And the underlying technology of Netflix…
Related posting. Did you miss our article on the Technical Architecture Behind Facebook?
We started a project at Facebook a little over a year ago with a pretty big goal: to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost.
We decided to honor our hacker roots and challenge convention by custom designing and building our software, servers and data centers from the ground up.
The result is a data center full of vanity free servers which is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers.
But we didn’t want to keep it all for ourselves. Instead, we decided to collaborate with the entire industry and create the Open Compute Project, to share these technologies as they evolve.
By releasing Open Compute Project technologies as open hardware, our goal is to develop servers and data centers following the model traditionally associated with open source software projects.
Our first step is releasing the specifications and mechanical drawings. The second step is working with the community to improve them.
Please take a look, tell us what we did wrong and join us in working together to make every data center more efficient.
At little bit of a PR job for OpenCompute.org but the video and related collateral is interesting.
Most important is the philosophy of all this. And that is openness, sharing, giving back, and improving through collaboration and community. The belief is that by sharing we will all collectively be better.
You can find the video, pictures, and engineering diagrams and specs starting at this link –
Read a related article –
There is a lot of different elements behind the success of Facebook. Of course it’s mostly about vision, timing, the right people, venture capital, good judgements at critical points in the history of Facebook, and so on. It’s also about the availability of readily available technology and excellent technical architecture and engineering by talented people – Mark Zuckerberg playing a major role in the original programming and technical design of (the)Facebook.com from the beginning.
(the)Facebook.com also benefited from a history of the failure of other social networking systems that preceded (the)Facebook.com. One of the failures clearly in the mind of the architects, developers, and technical engineers of (the)Facebook was the failure of the social networking system Friendster. Friendster may have been more successful had it been able to scale properly to meet the demand of the user base. Friendster did not scale.
(the)Facebook.com was careful to ensure that before another segment of users was invited to register for the service (at the beginning they added schools in a very controlled process) there was sufficient capacity to handle the projected number of new users.
The Scale of Facebook
At the time of this writing there are about 400 million active users Facebook. Facebook delivers 200 billion page views per month and the service is distributed across 30,000 servers.
So, from a technology perspective, how do you architect such a system? What is the technology and architecture behind Facebook that can deliver 200 billion pages per month to 400 million active users with good response time?
The success of Open Source
There are many success cases that can be developed from Facebook. The Open Source community is a clear beneficiary of the success of Facebook. Facebook is written in open source software. Enhancements, extensions, and innovations that Facebook made to improve performance and scalability of this open source software has been given back by Facebook to the Open Source Community.
The Facebook presentation layer is written in PHP – 3 million lines of code. The database tier is MySQL. If anything validates the Open Source community its the ability of these open source tools to be able to deliver a high performance massively scalable system like Facebook.
The Technical Architecture behind Facebook
Jeff Rothschild is Vice President of Technology at Facebook. He gave a presentation to the UC San Diego Center for Networked Systems. In this webcast Jeff goes into detail about the technology behind Facebook – the architecture, the challenges they faced in building a high performance massively scalable system, how they solved these problems, the innovations and extensions they made to Open Source code (and gave back to the community), and those challenges for the Facebook technology that still exist and for which they are seeking solutions.
Abstract: Facebook has grown into one of the largest sites on the Internet today serving over 200 billion pages per month. The nature of social data makes engineering a site for this level of scale a particularly challenging proposition. In this presentation, I will discuss the aspects of social data that present challenges for scalability and will describe the core architectural components and design principles that Facebook has used to address these challenges. In addition, I will discuss emerging technologies that offer new opportunities for building cost-effective high performance web architectures.
You can find the links to this webcast, and a summary of the technology at the links below