Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reflections on Steve Jobs' work

Moral: Wherein we look back at our computing history, a little.


Mr. Jobs' work was central to several themes that will continue (such as, truth engineering). He'll be fondly remembered by many, for a long time.

The below reflection is not to be considered as critical, in any sense. Rather, it is meant to be the start of several posts that deal with the evolution of computing and with what might be needed to bring the genie back into the bottle (impossible in practice, but nice to think about).


The blogger saw Steve Jobs in person before the blogger saw the first Mac.

The blogger was working on a project, based in Cupertino, that was trying to attain wafer-scale integration. As you would expect, the computational modeling requirements were enormous (as in, there was no possible way to print out the circuity on paper, let alone try to compute properties) and pushing the envelope. Of course, things may have been a little too risky from a business sense (but, that's another story).

That project was 30 years ago (Mr. Jobs wasn't the only former-hippie in the area); the idea was fairly progressive at the time. It was definitely too early for the desired scale. Mr. Jobs was interested in technological aspect, as were many, at the time.


It was a mere few months later that part of the world went crazy over the little Mac. Mind you, it was cute. But, it could not be, at the time, compared to what the blogger had as a workstation (which you could not lug around, of course) that was needed to handle the demands for large-scale modeling. Yes, the workstations were networked (early use of the local internet facilities), had large memory and storage, and were somewhat fast.

In the early days, it was the non-technical ones who were enthralled with the Mac. Or, those who were not fortunate enough to be working on projects that could (had to) shell out $100,000s (in multiples) for networked workstations (see Remarks 05/02/2012 for some details) and their software (very fat clients, essentially).

Later, the blogger was able to use enhanced Macs. That is, we put special purpose cards into the little guys to make them capable to support the work demand.

Unfortunately, after that, the companies that the blogger worked for went with the IBM/MS thing (if you type 'win' you lose -- type of deal). So, Bill Gates, too, will be another part (much later) of the story.


Now, of course, a device that fits into your palm is as capable, somewhat (cannot, as of yet, make any comparison of what are now termed 'apps'). Mind you, it takes banks of these devices to perform the types of tasks that we were attempting with workstations (needless to say, a lot of the speed-up is due to trickery, trimmings that may very well come back and bite us on our collective behinds).


In the past thirty years, the computing world has changed; yet, the underlying pinnings are no more sound. In fact, one might say that Mr. Jobs' work exacerbated the problem. Mind you, that is not a criticism. It means this: in the hands of about everyone is a whole lot of computing power, much of it wasted, and all of it can potentially contribute to an increasing amount of mayhem.


Of course, Mr. Jobs' outputs and devices have been crucial. For instance, his NeXT work was important in carrying forward several modeling technologies. Again, the blogger was involved with applying this capability.

There will be much, much more to look at.


In essence, Mr. Jobs' life and work was central to an expanding theme; of course, many have made money (extreme amounts) on the back of this development; too, many have suffered (the latest? I-Phone/IPAD suicides).

We need to look at the whole picture; Mr Jobs' (and his zen-mind) would appreciate that.


And, given that the recent protests are about what essentially is an exploitation by the best-and-brightest of computational frailties, the theme is very much apropos.


So, the coming posts will have more of a technical focus, as the blogger reflects on the changes that were concurrent with Mr. Jobs' life.


10/05/2012 -- In hindsight, Mr. Jobs' foresight looks pretty good (if only we could understand 'reality distortion' a little better -- and how we can observe effects). Talents come in many shapes, but being able to see around the corner (never 20-20) can be useful (if one can keep from being overwhelmed by the possibilities - lesson there? computability issues). The truly independent mind would have its own model that would be, perhaps, immune to energies related to phenomenon like Jobs' persuasive ability (this battle is age-old, folks -- to wit, the little ones on your shoulders leading you left-or-right [meant as facetious, during this muck-raking season, that is, thankfully, over in a matter of weeks] - Zen is one of many disciplines related to the theme). One adage I remember, from my long years, is that you get a bunch of managers together, and, before you know it, water runs up hill.

09/28/2012 -- Nice little issues continue to be ignored.

05/02/2012 -- Need to add a few comments about the technology alluded to earlier in terms of workstations. For one, the Lisp Machine (Xerox, Symbolics, LMI, ...). These workstations were quite capable and expensive. In fact, embedded within a couple of the modern approaches are the improvements gained from developing (and using) these machine. Too, about the same time, Unix-based machines were becoming more capable. Of course, SUN stands out, but it was much later. ... During those times, object modeling was maturing. C++? Infancy. Java? Not even a glimmer. ... Numerically, FORTRAN was still king and would be for awhile. Databases. The relational modeling that made some so much money? Being born. ... In essence. Work, at that time, was pushing new methods for creating algorithms and heuristics. Some of the approaches continued until the mid-2000s for the reason that they were still effective and, by that time, had not been duplicated by other approaches. ...

01/17/2012 -- I've been slowly reading his authorized bio; at some point, more reflection will be forthcoming, especially when we look at equity (private and otherwise).  

11/04/2011 -- Tech Ticker asks a good questions about the darker side of Apple. Are any of the other tech companies any better?

10/20/2011 -- We still need to follow up. USAToday on Mr. Jobs.

10/17/2011 -- There is so much to cover, however look at Rick's latest post. Of course, Turing's test doesn't deal with the 'being' issue (what test would?).

10/11/2011 -- Weathermen reminisce about what the Mac meant to them. These are interesting and relate to a couple of points that need to be addressed: function/presentation, metrology/close enough (of course, they're trying to solve a hard problem, yet, flashy graphics do not 'truth' make).

10/09/2011 -- The prior Remarks will bring in issues related to the 13th Amendment. Aside: do employer-driven non-disclosure agreements tread on rights pronounced there?

10/09/2011 -- Kings have sovereignty over their dominion however large it may be. There, currently, is no king of the world of this type. CEOs have sovereignty over their companies. Now, many of these have domains that are larger (measured many ways) than geographical types of kingdoms. BUT, each has sovereignty over themselves (or ought to), ideally (constitutionally, if you're in the U.S.A.).

Now, being able to exhibit sovereignty requires talent of various sorts. Throughout history, those who ruled others may or may not have had this talent. From all of the turmoil over the millenia, one has to just marvel at the stupidity of these types, exhibited, in the modern age, by the CEO MVPs.

Our task is to foster that which enhances one's self-sovereignty and diminishes others' influence on oneself. Oh wait. The social media seem to be antithetical to this notion. Also, all of those issues related to mature interactions (of a peaceful manner) must be resolved (philosophers have long been involved with that dilemma).

It is this type of notions that are behind a lot of what motivates the current protests. Those who could (LT 1%) have exploited (and have been allowed to exploit) the rest (GT 99%).

We need to discuss how much Steve's work may, or may not, have helped those who want to achieve self-sovereignty. Zombie-like attachment to an idiot box (yes, including the so-called smart phone) provided by technology (owned and ruled by another) is probably one of the worse types of enslavement.

See Washington Post article (link, next Remarks): kids won't glance up from their IPhones. They'll never need to. (Ah, we'll bring them bed-pans? Wait on the little zombies hand and foot?).

10/9/2011 -- And, the Washington Post weighs in.

10/8/2011 -- Interesting essay, at WSJ, that bears some response, at some point. Technology, in this sense, provides rose-colored glasses and puppet strings to be pulled by the wizard? Ah, ironic that the Mac appeared in '84. What conversations are George and Steve having?

10/8/2011 -- These Remarks are, in part, collecting themes for the future posts related the subject. The genie is out of the bottle, as noted above; we cannot go back (the time arrow is forward -- for all that we know, now); therefore, resolving 'truth' issues will be central (not unlike the need for defensive mechanisms -- albeit, we would like to think that peace and love are the norm -- not succumbing to Dick's paranoia). The context requires a technical focus, but a whole lot of intuition is in order, to boot. That is, trained intuition. Do we know how to do that, yet? Somewhat, Steve's work was directed toward this.

10/07/2011 -- Steve's efforts raised two essential ideas to the fore such that they had to become part of the milieu: usability and object-orientation. The two (and a few others, to boot) will be looked at further in additional posts. Usability, especially the touch-click notions assisted by graphical displays, is central to certain types of human-computer interface. That interface can get in the way, though, from a technical focus (we'll define this further). The whole notion of entities with behavior (we'll look at the history of this development) that are accumulations of disparate (not disjoint, necessarily) attributes is at the basis of a whole lot of modeling. Too, though, it can lead to confusion (computational vertigo). Again, this is not criticism, but, rather, it is an attempt to discuss the evolution of computing using the effects of Steve's participation.

There is a sort of dichotomy involved here. Apple allows an intuitive interface that enhances creative efforts, of a sort. That type of interface can inhibit others (we'll get into that). At the same time, though, this whole evolution has favored those who have numeracy (with the effect of reducing (or trying to) the innumerant set into the corner of eternal dumb-ness. Ah, no wonder things are so awry as the best-and-brightest are numerant and are exploiting the game.

One can argue (zen) that numeracy is more idiotic than not. Got that, smart folks? We'll be explaining why. Hopefully, the protesters of Wall Street do not lose their sense of urgency.

10/07/2011 -- Steve believed in his own intuition. We'll have to look at that a little, in this sense: mathematics and science have denigrated intuition (many examples of the counter-intuitive being correct - to a certain point) yet we know that we need this in order to be creative. Those two poles, or seeming poles, are at the crux of the computational problems of today.

Modified: 10/05/2012

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