Tag Archives: singularity

Technology stressed? Perhaps it is time to panic!

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Four years ago I spent a few months assembling a rather wide-spread document which I named "State of the art in Server Side Java". It was at the time well researched enough to end up as an entry on The Server Side.

Soon thereafter I got sidetracked to follow Ajax for a few years. I even went as the only Swede to the first ever Ajax conference in San Francisco, and blogged a lot from there.

These days there are simply so much things going on in Server Side Java land to have a slight clue as to where that freight-train is heading. There’s Hadoop and all its cousins for distributed computing, Actors, Terracotta, a school of new whacky persistence paradigms, a handful of JVM-based languages that only Ola Bini has the energy to follow. Annotations have, as I predicted, totally changed the way we program, and just about every day I bump into a new annotation I’ve never seen before (yesterday it was @PathParam).

It would feel OK if this plethora of technologies were somewhat obscure, but in my current project we use a lot of stuff I don’t know well enough, such as Maven, Jersey, WebLogic, Spring transactions and JPA, just to mention a few.

And even though the Ajax anarchy has somewhat collapsed into a few leaders, such as jQuery, Dojo, DWR and GWT, the whole arena is just all over the place. I’ve stopped following Ajax these days, there is just too much going on.

So, what do I spend time on, if I don’t stay up-to-date with server side Java or Ajax? Well, I’m swamped by RSS and Twitter. I abuse technology news like a drug addict, and believed I was reasonably knowledgeable, until I read this blog post yesterday which listed 14 technologies to follow at JavaOne. I had heard of 3 of them, which made me start thinking.

What the heck is going on? Is this technology race accelerating, not just at the rate of the SW industry expanding, but at a pace where it is getting out of control? Have humans triggered the singularity themselves, without the need for a Super Intelligence? Well, perhaps not. The slice of knowledge any human can follow has been shrinking constantly for a long time. But I can’t help getting this idea that the explosion of open source software is giving us the shoulders of giants we can stand on to accelerate our knowledge. And more of it is coming from unexpected countries. Recently I bumped into Debasish Ghosh. Following this guy from India on Twitter is like riding a rollercoaster – new exciting stuff all the time.

So, should we panic? Should we give up? Will every future job search have a list of required skills from a potential list of skills so huge that nobody will ever have a full set? What if we go with maximum speed into polyglot programming, and fragment even further in all directions? Today I heard about two sites where they used Clojure on the server, with Rails as UI. Who the hell can fill that skill set?

Någon rädd för Singulariteten?

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Jag stötte på begreppet Singularitet för något år sedan. Vad menas med Singularitet? Jo:

Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.

Smaka på innebörden av detta! Någon gång i framtiden blir datorer så smarta att de kan ta över designen av sig själva, så att deras intelligens accelererar ifrån oss människor. Vad sker då? Tydligen finns det en konferens för just detta, kallad The Singularity Summit. Den författare jag läst som ger mest insikt över detta område är Charles Stross. Jag kan varmt rekommendera hans bok Accelerando, som handlar om precis detta. Boken är emellanåt svårläst, men så full av ideer att man bör spänna fast säkerhetsbältet innan man börjar läsa. Det var exempelvis i den boken jag först stötte på begreppet Matrioshka Brain.

A matrioshka brain is a hypothetical megastructure, based on the Dyson sphere, of immense computational capacity. It is an example of a Class B stellar engine, employing the entire energy output of a star to drive computer systems.

The idea of the matrioshka brain violates none of the currently known laws of physics, although the engineering details of building such a structure would be staggering, as such a project would require the "disassembly" of significant portions (if not all) of the planetary system of the star for construction materials.

Om inte det begreppet ger en hisnande känsla så är man helt oemottaglig för hard core science fiction!

Stross är annars en vansinnigt cool snubbe. Han är utbildad apotekare, har forskat i computer science, har skrivit artiklar om Perl och Linux, har en väldigt intressant blog. Och skickar man honom email så svarar han!