Ah, working from home! A great time to enjoy the creature comforts of our dwellings. But when your workplace is also your leisure space, wires can be crossed and you may develop what I’m calling “RIM-Brain.” A leisure activity like watching movies takes on larger implications as the RIM-Brain takes over. In short, some of the analysts at TSLAC can’t enjoy a movie without seriously mulling the RIM (Records and Information Management) implications of the film. Below are a few recent examples:
Vampire’s Kiss (1989)
Vampire’s Kiss is the story of a yuppie literary agent (Nicolas Cage) who thinks he is turning into a vampire. But upon a recent revisit of the film, I couldn’t help marveling at the RIM implications of a certain subplot. An old contract has been misfiled and that is leading Cage to a lot of work stress. In the clip above, we see Cage waxing on to his therapist about alphabetic filing systems and how straightforward filing should be. Later in the clip, we see Cage describing sifting though old contracts to find the misfiled one as a “horrible horrible job.” He’s not wrong.
Based on anecdotal reports, 1 to 5 percent of records are misfiled. Even if just one document is misfiled, that could lead to serious consequences for your operation if the information held therein is needed for an important business purpose or public information request. Typically, filing arrangements are determined by how the records are requested. So, in Cage’s office the filing of contracts alphabetically and the fact that he’s a literary agent leads me to believe that the contracts are filed by client name. Alphabetic filing conventions are widely used and understood so they rarely require indexes.
I don’t want to spoil the outcome of the file hunt in Vampire’s Kiss, but I will report that the filing breakdown occurred due to an inadequate foldering and labeling system being employed in Cage’s office. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also share with our readers that Vampire’s Kiss is a an R rated movie that features adult situations. Viewer discretion is advised.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
While watching Rogue One, I could not help but notice the implications for the protection and security of Imperial records. Near the end of the movie the Rebel Alliance infiltrates the Imperial Center of Military Research on the planet Scarif (i.e., Scarif base). The Rebels had learned that the plans for the Death Star were being held in the Citadel Tower, located in the Scarif base.
The Rebels engaged in social engineering tactics—using ways of fooling the user into providing data or access to information—to steal the schematic plans for the Death Star. Bodhi Rook, a former Imperial cargo pilot who defected to the Rebel Alliance, was able to enter through the planet’s Shield Gate. Using his familiarity with the Imperial protocols, an Imperial ship, and an outdated Imperial authentication code, Rook convinced the controllers of the Shield Gate to let his ship full of Rebels into Scarif. Wearing stolen Imperial uniforms, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor entered the Scarif base undetected. Their companion, K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid, did not require a disguise. K-2SO was then able to login to the computer system in the Scarif base. K-2SO opened the doors into the records vault for Erso and Andor, and then locked them in to protect them from Imperial guards.
Using methods of social engineering, the Rebels were able to acquire the plans for the Death Star and transmit them to Rebel command ship. The software systems in place worked properly, but the humans (i.e., Imperial security guards) in charge of these systems were fooled. Had the Shield Gate controllers paused to question Rook’s use of an outdated authentication code or if the computer system in the Scarif base has alerted Imperial security that an unauthorized droid had accessed the computer system, the efforts of the Rebel Alliance would have been prevented. Once the Rebels entered the base, they were able to legitimately access the Death Star schematics. The Scarif base did not have any technology in place to protect their records once the records were accessed. The Imperial Information Chief later noted, “The plans for the galaxy’s most advanced battle systems can’t be kept on facilities that pre-date the Clone Wars.”
Twilight Zone – A Nice Place to Visit
In this first-season episode of the original Twilight Zone series, a man called Rocky comes to realize that he’s died and gone to heaven where he indulges in some hedonism like gambling with female admirers and enjoying top notch meals. But he’s perplexed because he knows he wasn’t a good person, so how did he end up in everlasting paradise? His escort in the afterlife, Pip, suggest going to the Hall of Records to review Rocky’s file and justify his placement in heaven, but all he finds is a list of his bad deeds.
I’ll leave the rest out to avoid spoilers, but what caught my eye and caused RIM-Brain was that the inscribed Hall of Records building has a roman numeral I, which made me wonder how many Halls of Records are there in the Twilight Zone? And who is the Records Management Officer?
Dr. Who – Silence in the Library
The Tenth Doctor, and his season four companion Donna, are one of my favorite pairings of characters in the British sci-fi series, Dr. Who. Their mission in this episode leads them to the 50th century planet called The Library, which is explained as a creation existing within the imagination of a present-day little girl who watches the characters and plot unfold through her television.
But here is where it gets weird and causes RIM-Brain. There are microscopic, sentient beings called Vashta Nerada, who are born from spores living in trees. When the forests on their home planet were cut down to produce paper for books, over a trillion dust aliens came to live on The Library, overwhelming the ability for computers to accurately record their numbers. They became aggressive and took over the book-laden planet as their new forest. The ~4,000 humans who called the planet their home had to be saved by The Library’s data core (the mind of the aforementioned little girl) or else they would become the primary food source for the Vashta Nerada. Humans were also at risk of becoming data ghosts, which are like digital zombies as the result of data degradation (a.k.a. bit rot!)
So to bring this around to the topic of this post, this is an interesting story based on real-life issues we face in digital preservation. Maybe one day the human consciousness could be uploaded to the cloud or saved to a hard drive, and then how would that be managed? Would there be a retention period for human-imprinted data?
P.S. I left out quite a bit in my summary of this episode, because… as any Whovian knows, SPOILERS!