|2007-07-24, by John Ringland|
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I have recently begun to take a new approach, not focusing on
explanations but instead on concrete demonstrations, instead of
producing essays about ideas I'll focus on producing concrete
products such as ontologies, software, etc.
I have also been looking into ways to get the message across. I
have decided to look into developing SMN and thereby giving the mass
consciousness what it wants - this will help to get its attention.
Understanding New Technology
First a quote from an article about XML, B2B and The
Gerry Galewski, a philosopher on information
technologies, gave a provocative explanation on why it often takes
years to truly appreciate the full potential of new technology:
"... when a breakthrough in technology is achieved, it takes
us a while as a culture to figure out what we really have. New
developments are culturally assimilated often based on what has come
before. We can't help but place the new developments within an
"Here's an example: In 1844 Samuel Morse invented the ability
to transmit information coded into electromagnetic pulses. He sent
the first message of dot dash dot dot dash from Baltimore to
Washington DC, and therefore people called this telegraphy.
"That first message Morse sent was 'What hath God wrought.'
Telegraphy became ingrained into the cultural consciousness. It was
easy to understand and deploy.
"Fifty years later, Marconi made a technological
breakthrough. He broadcast electromagnetic waves through the air. But
what did he send? The ability to modulate a signal was well
understood. But Marconi sent dot dash dot dot dash. That is what was
ingrained into the cultural consciousness of the time. So people
called this wonderful new tool, simply "Wireless Telegraphy."
Within their frame of reference, they didn't know what they really
had. It took another twenty years for Lee Deforest to apply practical
knowledge that had been around for decades. Deforest had the Eureka
event, and gave us radio.
"Now let's look at how we do business in the 1990s. In the
30s and 40s and 50s and 60s professional managers defined the common
business processes that we use to this day. Then computers and
networks were developed. And we set out to take advantage of this new
technology and automate our processes, and naturally we did that
based on a cultural context. Therefore we called this new capability
'Electronic Document Interchange.'
"But the underlying document model driving the process stayed
the same. We called it 'Paperless ordering,' or 'Paperless
invoicing,' yet the fundamental process flow stayed the same. Even
though it enabled entirely different business methods such as 'just
in time inventory,' we still had not reached that next fundamental
level of understanding. This is now changing. Eureka events have
"The existence of the Internet has created the ability to
re-invent the way that we fundamentally do business to make us all
more interconnected, closer in time and space, with less manual work,
our processes more timely, and our operations more and more
Consider the possibility that computation is a new technology that
we have yet to properly appreciate. Just as a wireless telegraph is a
primitive interface into a communication space that has so far
evolved into a global telecommunications network, so too are
contemporary computers just primitive interfaces into a computational
space that can evolve into something totally new.
The basic technology is virtual spaces. Any use of symbol systems
creates a virtual space. For example, the string of 5 symbols "apple"
represents (or encodes or reifies) the concept 'apple' within a
linguistic space by mapping the compound symbol "apple" to
the concept 'apple'. This allows me to transmit the string of 5
symbols to you within a linguistic context and you can dereference
(or decode) it and hold within your mind the concept 'apple'. The two
concepts are unique but share a close similarity (homology) due to
the common experiential context in which the concept 'apple' arises.
Therefore a concept (an entity within a mind space) has been
encoded within a linguistic code and transmitted via a virtual space
to then be decoded into another concept (entity within a mind space).
This means that virtual entities can be transmitted and integrated
with other entities.
Whilst in the virtual space the signal data is a form within the
virtual space and flows through it according to the dynamics of the
virtual space. It may be ink on paper flowing through a postal system
or pulses of photons that encode data packets that contain binary
data that constitute a file in transmission over the internet.
Representation reifies external systems within a virtual space and
we thereby populate and define that space.
A clay tablet, stylus and language is a very simple and
constrained portal into a virtual space. The ancient Egyptians knew
that if one knew the name of something, that gave you power over it.
If you can reify something with a virtual space and operate on it or
with it within the virtual space this gives power over that
something. For example, if you reify "apple" as an item in
a stock inventory and properly connect this concept into the business
logic this then gives a business the ability to deal in apples.
A clay tablet or a computer is a portal into a virtual space - but
they are based on the principles of documents - a modern computer is
an advanced clay tablet in that sense - but it is capable of far
A computer is a portal into a virtual space and the communication
space links virtual spaces together. Software is a portal into more
specialised virtual spaces. Peripherals such as screen, mouse,
keyboard and GUI form a virtual <--> human space interface.
Network communications form virtual <--> virtual space
interfaces. Control systems form a virtual <--> machine
interface. CPU and memory comprise the transcendent foundation of a
A modern computer is more elaborate than a clay tablet but is
still essentially a simple and constrained portal into a virtual
space. It creates dynamic virtual spaces that accelerate and augment
our traditional text/document approach.
These interfaces are limited by being overly bound by interface
specific constraints and not taking full advantage of the virtual
space. They are therefore more like electronic clay tablets instead
of portals into virtual spaces - like having a wireless telegraph
instead of a telecommunications network. This is because we have not
properly understood the nature of the virtual space.
We imagine the technology based on the type of interface we are
using, for example we develop writing technology and literature or
computer technology and software engineering but these can be
understood more generally as information system technology and
information system engineering.
In the terminology of Saussure, the technology defines a new
langue and we manifest many paroles.
Or in other words, the technology (langue) defines a type of
virtual space within which a set of information structures can be
created and manipulated including sub-virtual spaces and networks of
virtual spaces. The creative part (parole) is the creation of many
particular structures within the virtual space, producing a creative
context, an ecosystem of virtual forms, thus populating the virtual
space opened up by the technology.
Each virtual space provides some systems and processes whereby
sub-virtual spaces can emerge and the structure of virtual spaces can
grow. An example of this last phenomenon is a web server that
contains blogging software and millions of people build all manner of
blogs on it. Each blog and each page is a sub-virtual space.
A brief overview of the whole process is that:
languages open up virtual spaces (spoken language, writing, numerals,
binary, ascii, programming languages),
technology links virtual spaces (bureaucracy, printing press,
telegraphy, wireless, networks) and
# Computer technology
animates virtual spaces (software applications, databases, clients
and servers, virtual realities, online communities).
Before spoken language there was little communal organisation.
Before writing there was no mass organisation. Before
telecommunications there was no mass media. The virtual space is the
context in which culture emerges.
The collective virtual space is the place in which all cultural
systems operate. It doesn't matter whether the virtual space is based
on spoken words or clay tablets or paper documents or books or radio
or television or internet. It is all the same virtual cultural space
accessed via different interfaces.
As the nature of the interfaces evolves our access to the virtual
space evolves so the cultural context evolves and the culture
evolves. The invention of spoken language would have had an enormous
impact on human culture, so too the invention of written language,
then the printing press, then the telegraph, then wireless, then
television, then the computer, then the internet, then Web 2.0 and on
Technologies such as XML and Web 2.0 are signs of the document
paradigm beginning to connect with the virtual space paradigm but it
can go a lot further.
SystemMatrix is the foundation of a mathematical science of
information systems that gives detailed understanding and control
over virtual spaces. With SystemMatrix the virtual space paradigm is
explicitly implemented and the full potential of the technology can
Computers can cease to be just fast calculators or document
processors and they can become portals into rich and dynamic virtual
spaces. They are portals into the cultural space that is a collective
virtual space. They are nodes within the cultural network that forms
part of the landscape within which human interaction takes place.
It requires a shift in how we think about computers - it is
analogous to communications - are we dealing with a wireless
telegraph or is it a global telecommunications network. Are they just
fast calculators or document processors or are they portals into
Best Wishes : )
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