Enki, Myths, Computers, Information in Snowcrash

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History

"Enki's most important role is as the creator and guardian of the me and thegis-hur, the 'key words' and 'pattems' that rule the universe."

"Tell me more about the me."

"To quote Kramer and Maier again, '[They believed in] the existence from time primordial of a fundamental, unalterable, comprehensive assortment of powers and duties, norms and standards, rules and regulations, known as me, relating to the cosmos and its components, to gods and humans, to cities and countries, and to the varied aspects of civilized life.' . . . In one myth, the goddess Inanna goes to Eridu and tricks Enki into giving her ninety-four me and brings them back to her home town of Uruk, where they are greeted with much commotion and rejoicing. . . . She is hailed as a savior because 'she brought the perfect execution of the me. "'

"Execution? Like executing a computer program?"

"Yes. Apparently, they are like algorithms for carrying out certain activities essential to the society. Some of them have to do with the workings of priesthood and kingship. Some explain how to carry out religious ceremonies. Some relate to the arts of war and diplomacy. Many of them are about the arts and crafts: music, carpentry, smithing, tanning, building, farming, even such simple tasks as lighting fires."

"The operating system of society."

"I'm sorry?"

"When you first tum on a computer, it is an inert collection of circuits that can't really do anything. To start up the machine, you have to infuse those circuits with a collection of rules that tell it how to function. How to be a computer. It sounds as though these me served as the operating system of the society, organizing an inert collection of people into a functioning system."

"As you wish. In any case, Enki was the guardian of the me. . . .

"He sounds like kind of a hacker. Which makes his nam-shub very difficult to understand. If he was such a nice guy, why did he do the Babel thing?"

"This is considered to be one of the mysteries of Enki. As you have noticed, his behavior was not always consistent with modem norms."

"I don't buy that. I don't think he actually fucked his sister, daughter, and so on. That story has to be a metaphor for something else. I think it is a metaphor for some kind of recursive informational process. This whole myth stinks of it. To these people, water equals semen. Makes sense, because they probably had no concept of pure water -- it was all brown and muddy and full of viruses anyway. But from a modem standpoint, semen is just a carrier of information -- both benevolent sperm and malevolent viruses. Enki's water -- his semen, his data, his me -- flow throughout the country of Sumer and cause it to flourish."

"As you may be aware, Sumer existed on the floodplain between two major rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates. This is where all the clay came from -- they took it directly from the riverbeds."

"So Enki even provided them with their medium for conveying information -- clay. They wrote on wet clay and then they dried it out -- got rid of the water. If water got to it later, the information was destroyed. But if they baked it and drove out all the water, sterilized Enki's semen with heat, then the tablet lasted forever, immutable, like the words of the Torah. " (240)

SnowCrash Cyborg Cyberspace OV