Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cloud Singularity is Nigh

Recently I have been thinking a lot of about the concept of singularity in relation to cloud computing. Some in the industry have been pondering that the so called technological singularity is close and quite possibly being accelerated by the rise of internet centric computing (i.e. cloud computing). Apart from being the makings for a great movie plot, I really do love the concept of creating an autonomous and possibly self aware computing system. So I thought I'd go way out into left field and add my two cents to the discussion.

The concept of singularity was first discussed in 1965 when I. J. Good wrote what he described as a coming "intelligence explosion", now referred to as super intelligence. He theorized that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve themselves in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far better versions.

Although the concept of a computer program or a device that is smarter, more creative and wiser than any current or past existing human is great in theory. I'm not sure how useful it is as a litmus test for today's networked computing environments. I don't want a smarter computer so much as a more adaptive & efficient infrastructure capable of adjusting to demands with little or no human intervention.I think a much better singularity test is to define whether or not a distributed software application or infrastructure is capable of meeting the basic requirements of a "living system".

The Living System's Theory created by James Grier Miller, defines 20 "critical subsystems", which are defined by their functions and visible in numerous systems, from simple cells to organisms, countries, and societies. According to Miller, living systems are open self-organizing systems that have the special characteristics of life and interact with their environment. Applied to software they exhibit the capability for autonomous behavior as well the ability to evolve (improve or change) and reproduce (self versioning).

Rather then creating one monolithic software framework, I'd envision a distributed "system of systems" made up of many smaller adaptive and continually evolving building blocks. For me it's not about creating a computer as smart or smarter then a human. I'd prefer to see a single software component with the characteristics of single bacteria or even a single cell which can comprise a much broader evolving application.

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