Thursday, December 7, 2017
There have been four ages of mankind. The first was the Age of Speech; for the first time humans could “learn by listening” rather than “learn by doing”; that is, data could be accumulated, communicated, and stored by verbal communications. It also transformed the hunting and gathering into an economic architecture of small somewhat settled communities over the course of 300,000 years. Settlement produced first significant increase in economic activity, wealth per capita, and in the academics in the form of the shaman for tribal organization.
The second, the Age of Writing, produced a quantum leap in data and information that could be accumulated, communicated, and stored. This was over a period of at least 6,500 years. During this time, academic activity evolved from everyone working to survive to a diversity of jobs and trades and the economic stratification of political organizations. Again, the total wealth of humanity took a leap of orders of magnitude as the economic architectures of city states, then countries, and then empires evolved. The academics evolved from the shaman, to priests, clerics, researchers, mathematicians, and universities (e.g. the Museum at Alexandria ~ 370 BC and the University of Bologna, 1088) and libraries.
The third, the Age of Print, started with Gutenberg’s press in 1455, but blossomed with Luther’s radical admonition that everyone should “read” the bible about 1517. Suddenly, the quantity of information and knowledge to a leap of several orders of magnitude as all types of ideas were accumulated, communicated, and stored.
This created for many changes in sociopolitical organizations and cultural upheaval. After major wars (e.g., the 30 years, the 100 years, WWI, and WWII, with continuous warring in between) and “the age of exploration and exploitation (colonization)” which created the footings of globalization, in 1776 economic architecture was formalized into the mass production industrial architecture called Capitalism. Capitalism, with its risk/reward, and mass production has created far more wealth for humanity, though several new religions have destroyed a significant percentage of this wealth; religions, like Fascism (a throwback to feudalism), Communism, Socialism, and Liberalism (All which replace “personal responsibility” with “social responsibility” as their major article of faith).
Now humanity is on the cusp of the Digital Age. It too, will create orders of magnitude more data, information, and knowledge. And, it promises another giant leap in the wealth, but with commensurate risks of barbarianism and wars, from all sides, unless there can be integration of cultures, not “cultural diversity”. History graphically demonstrates that cultures always clash and that “diversity” cultures implode from the clash. I will discuss these later, but first Part 2 will discuss the inception and gestation of the Digital Age.
“Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away”.
A saying by computer software developers circa 1975
From its start to today, the Digital Age could be called the Age of Assembly. I know because I was there.
Starting in earnest sometime in the late 1960s, humanity has entered a new age, the Digital Age! And, as in the past three occasions, humanity has not realized the potential of this change in information technology.
In 1965, Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel, observed that “the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years.” Effectively, what this means is that raw computing power doubles approximately every two years.
But, the digital age requires three technologies. In addition to faster and more powerful hardware, it requires the same abilities of the other ages, the ability to accumulate and analyze the raw datum and to communicate both the data and store the results of the analysis.
The ability of a digital system to accumulate and analyze data is based on its programming. In 1956, I played with my first computer, or what was referred to at that time as a computer. This computer was programmed with a wire board—a board with a matrix of connectors; the programming came of wires connecting the “proper” connectors together. Data was inserted using Hollerith cards (referred to as punch cards).
By 1960, programming had graduated to computer coding using the punch cards. I coded my first program in Symbolic Programming System (SPS), a form of Assembler—the first step up from coding in machine language (1s and 0s)—as a member of my high school’s math club. An Assembler is little more than a useful translator of machine code to make it simpler of the coder to create code and to more easily identify bugs—both, greatly increasing the coders and codes effectiveness and also the cost efficiency of creating code.
By 1964, I started taking the first of three computer courses offered by the Math Department of the university I attended. This class included programming in machine code (literal ons and offs), SPS, and Fortran 1. The latter was the first use of the concept of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA).
Fortran 1 (Formula Translation 1) was among the earliest scientific programming languages. These languages were made of a set of computer commands (functions), read (getting input), print (provide output), do mathematically calculations (add, subtract, etc.) and perform some logical step (loop, branch, and so on). Actually it’s much more complex than this, but I’m not quite ready to take a swan dive into the minutia of computer software and hardware design and architecture.
By 1965, a coder could create hundreds of instructions per hour, rather than a couple of dozen like in 1956. Since the computing power of the hardware was (and is) dramatically increasing, making the coder more cost efficient makes sense. Additionally, it meant that computers could handle much larger and more complex tasks.
Between 1964 and 1980 two other technological developments occurred that have led to the start of the Digital Age, data storage devices, and data communications.
In 1964, I first saw, wrote code for, and used a storage device called a disk drive. Prior to this data was stored either on cards or on tape drives. Like the CPU, data storage hardware has continued to follow Moore’s Law. Today, the average smart phone has 100 to 1000 times the storage that the “mainframe” computer had when I was working on my Ph.D. and that storage 300MB costs tens of thousands time more and took up more than a basketball court sized room.
So the abilities to store and analyze data and information have become much more effective and cost efficient. So has the technology’s ability to communicate data, information, and knowledge.
In 1836 Samuel Morse demonstrated telegraphic communications, the first machine language method for communicating information. It took until the mid-1970s telegraphic communications to evolve into a wide variety of data communications hardware, software, and communications protocols. Then it took the next 20 years to coalesce into the hardware, software, and communications protocols we know as the “Internet” and the “web”.
During the same 20 years the final element for the digital age evolved, Services Oriented Architecture.
At the dawn of the digital age programming, all programs were simply an order set of machine instructions, no loops and no logic. When computer languages, like FORTRAN 1 first evolved, they were created with a good deal of branch logic to allow code to be reused. Why: because the memory and data storage on the machine was so small. So, at the time it made sense to reuse sections of code that were already in the program, rather rewrite the same code.
Inevitably this led to what “computer scientists”, people that taught programming rather than writing programs for a living, called officially “unstructured” programming, or in the slang of the day “spaghetti code”. In production at the time, unstructured programs were much faster in execution on the hardware available. However, they were also much more difficult to understand especially if they weren’t properly documented. This meant that they were hard to debug and hard to update or upgrade.
According to the computer scientists, the chief culprit of unstructured programming was the unconditional branch, called the “goto” statement. This statement indicated the location of the next coded statement that the computer should execute, and this, in general, was back to some location earlier in the program. This meant that in following the program, it jumped around, rather than going from top to bottom, making it easier for the inexperienced to follow. So, like all liberal bureaucrats they outlawed unconditional branching.
Then they replayed the goto statement with an unconditional branch to another program, initially called a subroutine. This fragmented the program and intuitively created what could become the services of SOA, but didn’t. Instead, they became the Dynamic Link Library (DLL) of computer functions; utilities of the operating system that can be used to support all programs on a computing system.
Instead of structured programs, I opted for modular programming. These were programs that performed a given function for the program. For the application that I wrote as part of my Ph.D., I used this architecture; and I submit that it’s the basis for the SOA-based applications.
Be that as it may, I’ve described how I see by the concepts for SOA evolving from machine language of the late 1950s, to assembler, then programming languages with DLLs, and then modular programming.
Each time, the number of machine instructions increased by orders of magnitude, meaning that a single instruction to call a “subroutine” or function could generate 50 to 500 or more instructions and each of these instructions could generate 1000 to 10,000 instructions. Actually, one time I did some research and found that one 20 line program actually generated 63 mega-bytes of code.
There was still a problem. It really helped the cost efficiency of the coder to be able to create massive amounts of code fast, but many times the customer for whom the program was being created wanted to interlink that program with other programs. Most often these programs were created in different computer languages (e.g., FORTRAN, COBOL, PL1), and on various brands of computers (e.g., IBM, DEC, HP, Sun, Silicon Graphics).
Obviously, the problem was that all of these various software and hardware suppliers were competing for business and therefore making it hard to interlink their products with competitors’ products. The reason was simple; to force their customers to buy only their products. Today you can see the identical strategy, with Apple, Microsoft, and others building their own “ecosystems” to ensure their customers stay their customers.
In the early 1980s, customers began to recognize this, especially with the advent of data networks. This set off a series of international standards committees for all components, from data and how to store it, to data communications.
For example, I was on a number of Open Systems Interconnect (OSI) data communications committees starting in 1982. One of the team members of the team I led had been a coauthor of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). Both HTML and XML, the languages of the web, were derived from SGML. I was peripherally involved with STEP (PDES) for engineering data, X.400 for e-mail and X.500 Directory Services from which LDAP was derived. This was all between 1982 and 2009.
Another step in creating SOA for information and knowledge-based system (the so called “Big Data” systems) is a standardized interface for the Services (i.e., components or functions). Various organizations including the W3C worked on this issue and came up with Web Services. Web Services uses XML in a defined and standardized manner to enable the software functions to communicate without having to write an interfacing routine between and among functions.\
The final step in creating SOA was the design and development of a reference architecture or model denoting the components of its supporting infrastructure, assembly process, and functions needed to create a robust application using SOA. I was a team member on the OASIS Team the created this model.
So from personal experience, I’ve seen the international standards for data formats, and data communications develop. All of the above are the precursors for Services Oriented Architecture as used for a new economic architecture.
Part 3 will discuss an economic version of Services Oriented Architecture and how it will reformulate business organizations in the Digital Age.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Part1: The Digital Future
I was challenged to forecast changes in economic systems based on both my knowledge of spatial economic systems and on my experiences with computers, data networking, and automation. What I have come up with is a four part article on the digital future.
Since I normally tend to build to a thesis like any good engineer designing a product, instead of stating my thesis and then defending it, like lawyers, and journalists normally do, I will take a shot at the thesis of this paper first.
We have entered the Digital Age in which Capitalism, which describes the economic system of the Age of Print will be succeeded by Economic Services Oriented Architecture producing Mass Customization. It will be an age where consortiums are formed small and entrepreneurial organizations to produce products, systems, and services the customer wants. This architecture will replace the current organizational architecture of a single large organization producing a large quantity of products that “satisfice”, that is, they come somewhat close to satisfying the customer’s requirements—they suffice.
The article is constructed in five parts. This part, Part 1, discusses the economic history of humankind based on how they have communicated and stored data and information. I feel it’s important to provide the context for my forecast.
The Second Part is a discussion of the coming of the Digital Age based on my experiences seeing it over the past 50+ years. I’ve found a structure in pattern in the seeming chaos of change in data and information storage. This pattern leads me to architectural pattern changes that lead to my forecast.
The Third Part is a more detailed discussion of this new architectural pattern called Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). I will give a couple of examples to demonstrate how SOA will work economically.
The Fourth Part will consider how SOA and the Digital Age will change an individual’s life by giving three examples.
The Fifth Part will show how converting to SOA will create changes as drastic as the changes from the feudal economic architecture to the Industrial architecture. In this part, I will forecast the change to a number of industries. Most of these changes are already starting to occur, though in a very minor way.
An Exceedingly Brief History of European and American Civilization
There have been four ages for humankind.
The Age of Speech
The age of speech (verbal communication), from circa 300,000 BC to circa 6,000 BC was when for the first time data, information, and knowledge could be transferred and store within and between generations. This was the first time when clans and tribes formed. And, according to archeologists, there was a glacially slow revolution from hunting and gathering and stone to agriculture and metals. This was the economic architecture of the time. During this period, the shaman, or priest was holder of the tribal information base.
The Age of Writing
The age of writing (written communication), from circa 6,000 BC to 1455 AD, was when data, information, and knowledge could be more accurately transferred longer distances and stored for much longer time periods (in fact, there are documents and records over this entire period). Political institutions increased from tribes migrating all over the landscape to settled (or at least apparently) settled city states, and then to regional and national states. This was the second form of an economic architecture.
During this age the first known libraries and colleges formed; for example, the library and museum (college/research center) at Alexandria. And again, more than 600 years later, after the various barbarian tribal invasions sent Europe back to the talking age, (during the dark ages) up to 900 AD when Carolus Magnus (or Charlemagne) manage to very slightly reintroduce writing and then colleges were formed in what is now Italy.
The Age of Printing
The age of printing, (printed communications), from 1455 AD to between circa 1942 to 1992, data, information, and knowledge, became much more readily available to humankind. Thanks, in large part to Martin Luther insistence that everyone should be able to read the Bible, Northern Europe learned to read and read ideas and concepts that were not part of the Catholic Church Doctrine.
By 1776, Adam Smith had described how wealth was created, together with the growth of engineering knowledge, and the ability of individuals to take risks and fail or succeed, Humans entered the era of Mass Production and Liberty. This is the basic economic architecture of the Age of Printing.
Included in the mass production was mass production of education, based on a school for all teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. This has led to the mass production educational systems of today.
Knowledge and Wealth
You should note that with the speech, humanity grew significantly wealthier than other animal species. The reason is that they could accumulate more and better data, information, and knowledge through speech.
With writing, humanity accumulated a much more wealth. This wealth was exceedingly badly distributed. Nonetheless, looking at places like Pompeii, even some of the slaves could accumulate small wealth (while “the bread and circuses” form of socialism led to the eventual destruction of the Roman Empire).
With printing, a much large chunk of humanity created orders of magnitude more wealth. The accumulation of knowledge of how the Universe works has led to mass production, which meant mass wealth. For example, if there is a disaster now, people expect the restoration of power, water, fuel, and communications immediately; this was never true for even the “wealthiest in the age of speech, writing, or even for most of the age of print. This demonstrates how exceedingly rich even the poor are today, when compared with the rest of human history (This is something the liberal entitlement generation has forgotten).
The Digital Age: The next Age
The next Age has begun. It began, in a real sense with WWII. It gestated throughout the 1950s to the mid-1960s. I will discuss this period and beyond in the next part of this article.