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Back to the Future: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

As information consumers that depend so much on the Network or Cloud, we sometimes indulge in thinking what will happen when we really begin to feel the effects of Moore’s Law and Nielsen’s Law combined, at the edges: the amount of data and our ability to consume it (let alone stream it to the edge), is simply too much for our mind to process. We have already begun to experience this today: how much information can you consume on a daily basis from the collective of your so-called “smart” devices, your social networks or other networked services, and how much more data is left behind. Same for machines to machine: a jet engine produces terabytes of data about its performance in just a few minutes, it would be impossible to send this data to some remote computer or network and act on the engine locally.  We already know Big Data is not just growing, it is exploding!

The conclusion is simple: one day we will no longer be able to cope, unless the information is consumed differently, locally. Our brain may no longer be enough, we hope to get help, Artificial Intelligence comes to the rescue, M2M takes off, but the new system must be highly decentralized in order to stay robust, or else it will crash like some kind of dystopian event from H2G2. Is it any wonder that even today, a large portion if not the majority of the world Internet traffic is in fact already P2P and the majority of the world software downloaded is Open Source P2P? Just think of BitCoin and how it captures the imagination of the best or bravest developers and investors (and how ridiculous one of those categories could be, not realizing its potential current flaw, to the supreme delight of its developers, who will undoubtedly develop the fix — but that’s the subject of another blog).

Consequently, centralized high bandwidth style compute will break down at the bleeding edge, the cloud as we know it won’t scale and a new form of computing emerges: fog computing as a direct consequence of Moore’s and Nielsen’s Laws combined. Fighting this trend equates to fighting the laws of physics, I don’t think I can say it simpler than that.

Thus the compute model has already begun to shift: we will want our Big Data, analyzed, visualized, private, secure, ready when we are, and finally we begin to realize how vital it has become: can you live without your network, data, connection, friends or social network for more than a few minutes? Hours? Days? And when you rejoin it, how does it feel? And if you can’t, are you convinced that one day you must be in control of your own persona, your personal data, or else? Granted, while we shouldn’t worry too much about a Blade Runner dystopia or the H2G2 Krikkit story in Life, the Universe of Everything, there are some interesting things one could be doing, and more than just asking, as Philip K Dick once did, do androids dream of electric sheep?

To enable this new beginning, we started in Open Source, looking to incubate a project or two, first one in Eclipse M2M, among a dozen-or-so dots we’d like to connect in the days and months to come, we call it krikkit. The possibilities afforded by this new compute model are endless. One of those could be the ability to put us back in control of our own local and personal data, not some central place, service or bot currently sold as a matter of convenience, fashion or scale. I hope with the release of these new projects, we will begin to solve that together. What better way to collaborate, than open? Perhaps this is what the Internet of Everything and data in motion should be about.

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My Top 7 Predictions for Open Source in 2014

My 2014 predictions are finally complete.  If Open Source equals collaboration or credibility, 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular.  As an eternal optimist, I believe 2014 will be even better:

  1. Big data’s biggest play will be in meatspace, not cyberspace.  There is just so much data we produce and give away, great opportunity for analytics in the real world.
  2. Privacy and security will become ever more important, particularly using Open Source, not closed. Paradoxically, this is actually good news as Open Source shows us again, transparency wins and just as we see in biological systems, the most robust mechanisms do so with fewer secrets than we think.
  3. The rise of “fog” computing as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unfortunately be driven by fashion for now (wearable computers), it will make us think again what have we done to give up our data and start reading #1 and #2 above with a different and more open mind. Again!
  4. Virtualization will enter the biggest year yet in networking.  Just like the hypervisor rode Moore’s Law in server virtualization and found a neat application in #2 above, a different breed of projects like OpenDaylight will emerge. But the drama is a bit more challenging because the network scales very differently than CPU and memory, it is a much more challenging problem. Thus, networking vendors embracing Open Source may fare well.
  5. Those that didn’t quite “get” Open Source as the ultimate development model will re-discover it as Inner Source (ACM, April 1999), as the only long-term viable development model.  Or so they think, as the glamor of new-style Open Source projects (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, AllSeen) with big budgets, big marketing, big drama, may in fact be too seductive.  Only those that truly understand the two key things that make an Open Source project successful will endure.
  6. AI recently morphed will make a comeback, not just robotics, but something different AI did not anticipate a generation ago, something one calls cognitive computing, perhaps indeed the third era in computing!  The story of Watson going beyond obliterating Jeopardy contestants, looking to open up and find commercial applications, is a truly remarkable thing to observe in our lifespan.  This may in fact be a much more noble use of big data analytics (and other key Open Source projects) than #1 above. But can it exist without it?
  7. Finally, Gen Z developers discover Open Source and embrace it just like their Millennials (Gen Y) predecessors. The level of sophistication and interaction rises and projects ranging from Bitcoin to qCraft become intriguing, presenting a different kind of challenge.  More importantly, the previous generation can now begin to relax knowing the gap is closing, the ultimate development model is in good hands, and can begin to give back more than ever before. Ah, the beauty of Open Source…

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Virtual Mining Leads To Virtual Fabrication

I recently read a fascinating story about a Minecraft enthusiast who is pushing the limits of the game world.   By gathering elements that hold special properties in the game, known as Redstone, and then pulverizing it into Redstone Dust, players are able to then create wires and simple circuits.   Some players have taken to these circuits, and have begun creating larger and larger boards.   Then, some have gone further still.

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