By 2019 a $1,000 personal computer will have as much raw power as the human brain. I figure at that price, I'll get two, two brains are better than one and by then I'll be 63. I may need four. This prediction and others are right around the corner, according to Ray Kurzweil, a noted futurist. I love to read Kurzweil. His predictions are both exciting and terrifying. Think you're getting a good deal in 2019, look at what happens in 2045:
$1000 buys a computer a billion times more intelligent than every human combined. This means that average and even low-end computers are vastly smarter than even highly intelligent, unenhanced humans.
Now we're getting personal. Unenhanced humans? Legacy people? I could be legacy in 2045? At the young age of 89?
Kurzweil goes on to imagine a “technological singularity”:
The technological singularity occurs as artificial intelligences surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable life forms on the Earth. Technological development is taken over by the machines, who can think, act and communicate so quickly that normal humans cannot even comprehend what is going on. The machines enter into a "runaway reaction" of self-improvement cycles, with each new generation of A.I.s appearing faster and faster. From this point onwards, technological advancement is explosive, under the control of the machines, and thus cannot be accurately predicted.
The Singularity is an extremely disruptive, world-altering event that forever changes the course of human history. The extermination of humanity by violent machines is unlikely (though not impossible) because sharp distinctions between man and machine will no longer exist thanks to the existence of cybernetically enhanced humans and uploaded humans.
Set your singularity clocks now, we only have 35 years before this happens.
I'd love to have Kurzweil's bookshelf, I'm sure he's well read, but he hasn't spent much time telling us what happens to old technology. What about all the legacy applications? Legacy businesses? All those unenhanced humans milling around writing COBOL. Do these businesses survive the singularity? Or is it like a slow extinction? Will legacy businesses become dinosaurs, unable to survive the world-altering singularity?
Maybe this future comes to pass, maybe it doesn't. But one thing is certain: change. Survival of any business is often predicated upon the journey its leaders have mapped out. A journey that isn't always clear, involving technology that is racing toward innovation, accelerating into the future. Want some help comprehending it all? If so, today HP is announcing a major initiative to help you to realize your future and help you to Break the Gridlock.
As part of this initiative, HP is offering a promotion of the Transformation Experience Workshop. This is a highly interactive workshop that helps to understand and map your legacy transformation journey. Please click the link above to find out more. Hope to see you at a workshop, even if your are an unenhanced human being. http://h10134.www1.hp.com/campaign/applications-workshop/
In a previous post I wrote that at one time developers had to write a great deal of code that today would depend on prebuilt or commercial components.
There is one class of legacy program that represents the ultimate example of this - large apps that manipulate flat files for reporting purposes. It is common in these instances to see extensive JCL devoted to sorting and copying, and COBOL programs doing substantial filtering, merging, and rewriting of data. Understanding exactly what is happening is complicated by the use of multiple jobs and programs to paste this all together. The fundamentals are actually fairly simple, once you work your way through the complex overlay of report processing that was written repeatedly.
I've seen programs that write out the table content, line by line, with a tag on the front indicating what type of report line it is. Then a final pass creates the actual formatted reports - kind of a primitive model, view, controller - with the model being the original input flat files, the controller being the multiple JCL and COBOL jobs filtering and massaging, and the view being that final COBOL program that emits 132 column lines suitable for your fan-fold, green bar paper.
Today, these programs would be built by linking a reporting tool to a relational database. The endless JCL manipulations would be accomplished by predefined views or appropriate SELECTs. And the results would be published to our corporate intranet with appropriate access controls. Agility, in terms of our ability to produce new or modified reports, would be enormously enhanced and the labor costs associated with maintaining the reporting capability would drop by an order of magnitude.
This is a classic candidate for what Steve Woods has labeled asymmetrical transformation, which involves identifying those portions of your application that truly require custom coding and then ensuring that the rest are implemented by the appropriate COTS solution.