Interesting reading for anyone in the computer industry
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I read the book You Are Not A Gadget, by Jaron Lanier. For some, this book may seem to be an attack on the Internet (Mr. Lanier is careful never to capitalize the I in Internet, by the way). I did not find this to be the case. I believe that Mr. Lanier makes some very good points about the current and possible future uses of the computing technology. While we have witnessed extraordinary growth in the computational, storage, and networking capacity of computing systems (as witnessed by the recent IBM Watson showing on Jeopardy!), this has not resulted in any quickened pace of innovation other areas of human innovation (for example, music). Indeed, there are quite a few unpleasant areas of the Internet and certainly the ability to criticize in relative anonymity can make the Internet a seemingly unfriendly place to be at times.
On the other hand, the Internet has enabled startling growth in communications between people, even if that communications is not as formal or perhaps civil as it might have been were the people sitting across from one another. We see evidence of social networking being used to organize peaceful protests, locate lost friends, and re-unite relatives who have been searching for one another.
As luck would have it, I completed the book just before all the excitement over the IBM Watson Jeopardy! Challenge event. The contrast between the cautionary guidance from Mr. Lanier and the cutting-edge research into machine learning of IBM Watson seems on the surface to be considerable. However, my interpretation is somewhat different. What I see here is that we are moving to era where computing systems can serve as an extremely capable advisory system to assist us in being even more innovative and expressive than ever before. We must, however, be sure to keep in mind our ethics and manners as we blaze this trail, taking responsibility for what we write, compose, draw, publish, and produce.
As for computers taking over the planet - well, that does make for great science fiction. For now, I'm content to keep in mind that because every computer is still programmed, there's ample errors (unintentional) and missing features in them so that we're not going to rely on them for everything anytime soon. And that brings me right back around to the topic of application development, development tools, and application modernization which is the subject of this blog. Since the collective mountain of software in the world just keeps rising (we don't do much of anything to reduce the pile), there's ample opportunity for teams to improve applications as they build new features. IBM Watson isn't writing software ... at least not yet.