A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



Software is still eating everything

My blog post yesterday was a unexpected hit. What do I mean by hit? I mean that I got three genuniune responses to it: a retweet, a comment and a message. The message even suggested that I should put the text of my blog posts through something like word before I post them, which means that the reader had not only read the title of the post, but some of the text!

But if I've been talking about anything for the last few weeks, I've been talking about the importance of responding to things that you find that your users value.

And it seems that my "users" are interested an responsive to the idea of software eating everything. So I thought I'd write a bit more about that. I've got a few points I want to talk about, and I might not get through all of them today. So I might continue this topic tomorrow.

What you're dealing with

Alan Turing is one of the people who should probably be credited with inventing the computer, that's the physical piece of equipment. There are other people with good claimson this: Tommy Flowers, John von Neumann and Konrad Zuse. But the idea of a computer, the idea of a machine that could follow a set of instructions? That seems to have been Turing's idea.

What's important to understand what kind of machine Turing imagined. The machine that Turing imagined could solve all problems. OK. Not quite all problems. But the machine that Turing imagined could certainly solve all the problems that could be solved. Turing was thinking about this from the point of view a King's (Cambridge) mathematician. And he knew that in maths there was a class of problems that couldn't be solved.

How could there be such a machine? Because the machine that Turing imagined wasn't a computer, the machine that Turing imagined was an imaginary machined that could sit inside a computer. And Turing, being a mathematician, and being used to this kind of thinking, realised that that machine, could be infinite.

That's what you're dealing with. It won't stop.

It's important to keep this in mind when you're sizing up the thing that you've just noticed is trying to eat you.

Software is a machine that can solve all problems that can be solved.

Oh my God! Put like that, it sounds pretty scary. Put like that, it is pretty scary.

What you can do about this

Is there anything that you can do about this? Well, what you can do is learn how to use software yourself. That doesn't mean that you have to write the software. But it might mean that you should understand more about what software is and how it gets written.

If you're an individual, sure, this seems totally daunting. But, this is the bit that I find difficult to understand, if you're working for a company, especially a company that's been successful in other fields that software is starting to eat like energy, banking, government, I'd find it astounding if you weren't thinking very hard about this.