- Oct 2016
The Establishment Under Assault
I frankly find such framing to be boring and besides the point, especially painfully obviously here in 2016 as we see (what feels to me like) a new- this time, indeed digital society- establishment congeal & ossify itself into fixed place.
The establishment is secondary, defined by a long set of offerings and bids it has come to make. There is no assault on this- there are only eras of growth and opening, of people liberating new capabilities in deployable, shareable fashion, in varying extents of sharing. Earlier points talked to software being captured knowledge, and sometimes that's distilled into competitive tools that do new or better, but the general purpose promise is that the tech itself remains imminently re-workable, that a new software system, a new network can come along and repurpose the existing materials. What is established isn't under assault, it's always base materials for the next mashing up, the next re-view: what is true is that the new baseline is general purposeness, is existence as a virtual object that doesn't have to be completely reified into monolithic singular product to be deal with. Just as we constantly invent new tools to observe and inspect and play with reality, so too is the great eternal boom of the new digital society regime.
And so we see something totally unique in the history of commerce: the largest firms on the planet face direct competition from tiny start-ups that can move rapidly, experiment with high-risk strategies, adapt overnight, and grow large to fill new areas before large firms even realize those markets exist.
The magic of "general purpose" computers was this kind of open competition- that the edge of thought could lead itself, needed no permission. Software and APIs gave this impression for a long time, presented this magical idea that we ourselves could take ourselves, on the base provided, to ever increasing heights, but as Service as a Software Substitute continues it's reign, as mobile takes off and leaves things like user-extensions behind, our individual user agency diminishes upon this alter of massified software. In 2016, we risk losing access to the magic, to the means and ways that software has given us, has kept open to us, as we rely increasingly on hosted, cloud systems, relying instead on them to determine the full and complete set of capabilities we might ever need. Keeping this unique aspect open- this access to the magic- is how we can continue to keep our machines broadly magical, and enhancing and serving us the people.
Which ought be easier to do if we can keep Moore's Law for Software trickling down, helping people maintainsmall scale and independent systems and grow them during times of thriving: https://hyp.is/IwN6aomwEeaPsld5YV_GIQ/content.cultureandempire.com/chapter1.html
This means we don't need dedicated computer systems or support staff.
Software again as the below zero cost.
All of human society depends on communications
Which is why it's so vital that people own it, that it's ends not be bounded by the limits and constraints of deliberate, corporately controlled product. Digital society was free not just of material inputs, but opened people to dealing directly with a post-product: with construct, with virtuality. These magic machines are Engelbartian, limitless, things that by dreaming & reworking we can continue to roll with far beyond their original imagined uses. We depend on communication, and it is a human act, our way of bringing out the limitless realms of thought, and the devices of product and digital communication can alloy and found medium in which thought can be begun. Digital society is constantly eclipsing it's previous communications, is externalizing it's past as it develops new capabilities and knowledge onward.
Powerful drivers must exist in order for people to keep pushing the envelope
The powerful pull of possibility, remains ever one of the most compelling. I continue to believe that the magic of these machines is their imminent possibility, their malleability, and the vast captured knowledges and possibilities we have established as shared. There's always new combinations, new ways of seeing things, better ways to let things express themselves that compel certain people to bring those radiant systems out to shine. And that, often, connects with people in a far more direct, driving, powerful way than the conventionally thought of powerful drivers, than the massive industry that has arisen to deliberately, ongoingly both stoke this engine & also capture it's output.
Software represents distilled knowledge about how to approach specific types of problems that can be solved using general-purpose computers.
100! This is really deep into the heart of it. And very few bits of accrued knowledge are right or correct- they're all circumstantially useful for solving problems, often problems themselves acrued from previous knowledge/software cycles gone by.
And larger still, software really enfolds and extends us when we can solve general classes of problems broadly with the general tooling atop our general purpose systems & computers. Tools and applications drive ends, but this constant generation of new ends, new problems, new models and new views, all of that hints at the higher order nature of software as a system of capabilities, for letting us work and rework models and the virtual weightless concepts about.
Good software doesn't just perform the illusion of making work look like it's free, of doing work for nothing: good software lets us suspend belief in gravity, in being anchored and affixed, letting us pick our perspective and continually explore new directions in towards problems, specific and sometimes general too. When software can move beyond being a single system, move beyond being about specific problem types and be generally used, then we can all begin to be magic makers.
the production cost of technology drops by half every 24 months, more or less.
Yet for many startups, compans, costs now while remaining unsophisticated are already low, have many affordable service based offerings.
For big players, riding OpenStack, Mesos, &c has long been a bit of a no brainer, but smaller scale, less intensive, lower entry/base cost platfor ops has only just begun getting trendy, possible (thanks Kubernetes). This adoptability shift- not just big high gross ops, but small scale ops, with more of the common developership getting exposure- is where I think a real measurable and meaningful shift/change can start, where this Moores Law of Software starts showing returns.
why all old technology isn't literally free
Now we are starting to see second hand tech being fantastically impressive, but it's still, here in late 2016, early days for this. Racks of high density compute are showing up- sans drive rail, wink wink- for stupid cheap. A lot of those boxes will continue running for 10 more years. 15x 2U c100 units on a rack, 4 nodes per box, 2 sockets per node, a L5640 low power hex core and you've got 720 rather competent CPUs going for a couple k$.
With GPUs we're still seeing more than incremental change, we're seeing serious architectural shifts and entirely differnet stratas of software support growing on each new generation, but that will calm down too, somewhat, as we enter a normalized Vulkan era. And in the cheap-racks realms, we do still find differences- it's only the really old Nehalmens & Sandy Bridges, 40-32nm, showing up. The first major refinement- Ivy Bridge- is still not there (& rocks a vastly improved IO subsystem via DDIO). Keep waiting for some big phase transition there.
10Gbit network gear is cheap-ish now but that whole enterprise- connectivity- seems likely to experience radical drastic rebalance, reshifting real soon now. And current networking tech- with the normal stupid-cheap Infiniband exceptions- seems unbelievably unlikely to have lasting impressiveness versus the new breaking waves.
A new wave (aka Web 2.0)
kind of culminating in Google Wave, with it's post-late REST model of OT's versus the well structured (but somewhat archaic in retrospect) Buzz: operational transforms as something else versus longstanding conceptual resource oriented syndication systems.
digital culture has changed from a luxury to a paper-cheap commodity
more so, it has flipped below low cost to no cost, provided to you: software is now a non-commodity, an ambiently available all pervading system of services that we readily partake and wade into. the locus of event- the device- still features, but it's presence is reduced under the "My ___" tabs- my photos, my videos, my friends, all fully available from any computer anywhere.
There are no price points and there are no features- all lure is the lure of network, of externalities. Unlike car shopping we aren't picking our luxuries and features, aren't opening or closing capabilities- we may get a better GPU for graphics and games, but everyone has the same basic range of capabilities open to them- touchscreen, volume buttons, IMU. We tend not to extend software, live in deeply customized environments, but exist on Facebooks and Googles and iTunes functionally very similar to the other billion Facebooks and Googles and iTunes open at th moment.
changes scare many people, whereas in fact they contain the potential to free us,
And now many of the changes bore us! Alien intelligence (AI) now is the banner of the day, the big vastness of machines atop their big data troves, programming themselves passing scripts to make it by.
And in character, I find many of the old changes far more interesting and alluring, particularly when I consider & reflect on their freeing potentials. A usable world wide web, one where all pages and all things are part of a greater personal canvas that I play upon, is one that frees people, a literally heirarching of people above the software.
most significant changes have occurred during just the last 10 years or so
2003-2013 in this books case. I tend to agree, feeling that vast swarths of the technical infrastucture had arisen even early in this period. Impact on people, our lives, I think was much less, but the hope and bounds were dialated wide open and that a lot of the technical shifts that've followed have been serving fragments of the original bigness, particularly that a resourceful, open, addressable web implied.