Archive for category Abstract

Resilience In the Global Economy

While at school, way before the global economic crisis, we touched on globalization. As a class that had to be passed it was a matter of understanding the material and thinking “wow” this idea may actually only end up making the world a better place as more capital will flow to areas where it is needed and the developed economies get some breathing room by providing products and services that are already available in their advanced markets. This, of course, only works through the multinationals mostly and as such mega corporations are spreading to developing countries looking for mostly extractive natural resources. There are some multinationals that were (and perhaps still) are adapting their products to the less well off customers in some specific developing countries.

Fast forward to the recent past and I came across some research papers and opinion pieces that were anti-globalization. The aforementioned past is close to when “words” like “credit crunch” and collapse of large banks like Lehman Brothers was in the news cycle everyday. Speaking of news, financial journalists like to state that “if the US sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold”. The world largest economy went into a recession (rumours are that it is growing at the moment so let us hope this growth is sustainable) and started borrowing heavily from the world’s second economy (China); that debt should stand in the trillions by now. The problem spread to Europe and it is still being dealt with at the moment through various economic trickery and theories (can you say “quantitative easing”?).

Globalization has been catching on for quite sometime that most economist and those appointed to run economies that span and affect the global economy forgot the basis of sound structural design. More specifically, if you are going to have an economy that will span the rest of the world you need to have some built in resilience. It is not that recessions will not happen but if and when a recession does occur it can be limited; more importantly the other less affected economic zones of the world can adequately come to rescue those in trouble (without saddling future generations with enormous debt to pay).

Recessions have consequences on the social and political fabric of society. Case in point: there should be no pretence about any robust democracy in Greece at the moment. They will have laws enacted and elections held but most of the more relevant decisions that government takes are directed by the so called Troika (IMF, EU and Germany). For all intends and purposes of the problems that led Greece into her current predicament look like something you would have expected of a developing country: tax evasion with people generally not getting caught or at least taken to court? In the European Union, Greece may be the extreme case but other Southern European countries are also more or less in some economic stresses: Spain, Portugal, Italy and to a less extend France. Am not entirely sure if this has some connection with the nature in which the European Union is designed and operated; the EU is a supranational entity that allows its individual members to operate their own government and politics specific to them. Competition among the individual members is high and usually decisions are committee and consensus based which means that acting decisively during a crisis is something that can only be hoped for.

According to the academics, the current recession in the US was brought about law makers who thought it fit to repeal laws that were meant to ensure the robustness and resilience of the financial industry – at least by ensuring the savings of American’s remain safe from any kind of financial engineering. To be fair and balanced, it would seem like the law makers may have been lobbied into removing these safe guards. A casual observer of the current state of the America economy will realize that the financial industry has largely come unscathed from it all though Americans still continue to endure economic hardships; don’t forget that no senior official in industry has been persecuted for what is increasingly looking like negligence on part of the industry’s main players. Corporations with global power and reach decide to change the manner in which the landscape of the law – mind you laws of a superpower, not some backward third world country.

Still on the subject of the fragility of a global economy: in the year 2012, Africa had 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies. It was noted that the fact that Africa is not fully plugged into the global economy may have lessen the effects of the global economic crisis on these countries. Most of the involvement that the continent – more so the sub-Sahara bit of it is through extractive natural resources mainly. Much of the revenue that come from the continent would of less interest to global players in the financial industry and so not much shenanigans was brought in. However, also more importantly I think – during the recession in much of the developed economies of the west, much of sub-Sahara Africa may have experienced a drop in aid funding which means that the only way to get out of that particular problem is to develop a viable economy that is less dependent on aid. Hopefully with any lack, this is a permanent shift in the fortunes of the continent. Of course with that, there comes the temptation that Africa will also become deeply embedded in the global economy.

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Technology As Means To Dynamic, Self-Propagating Freedom

Some time back I stumbled upon the sweet revelation that written sci-fi (more specifically novels) is much more entertaining than your typical TV shows and/or movies of the same genre. Don’t get me wrong, those still remain my favourite pastimes when I need to unwind. I must admit that I have not been very diligent in my readings lately (cue the appropriate excuses …) though I have at least taken a look at some of the luminaries in the genre including Isaac Asimov and more modern authors such as Iain M. Banks. Banks’ Culture series is classified as a space opera (I know, never thought I would be into anything soap) that presents some pretty intriguing concepts, immersed in wide spanning geographic (in any case galactic) and time scales. I think the series is popular enough that checking out its page on Wikipedia would give you a detailed overview about the fictional society itself and what goes into making this fictional universe.

I have always emphasised that sci-fi should be looked at beyond the fancy technologies and more as a commentary on human nature. The Culture is a symbiotic human/machine civilization that is more an idea than anything concrete that you can point at. For example, most modern states and indeed our current civilization can point to global treaties and written laws and constitutions and all the documents, mores and norms that define our existence. For the Culture though, they don’t have anything that resembles a law – the Wikipedia entry refers to this fictional civilization as a socialist, utopian anarchy.

In our normal lives we can’t envision a society without laws as this essentially means an unprecedented level of violence and chaos but here is someone presenting an idea that explore the possibility of anarchic society that is largely a utopia. As a concept under consideration, The Culture is more of an idea that is constantly maintained at a stable state that its various citizens want and/or can agree to bring about; it is certainly a deliberate effort to more forcefully create that which you believe to be right – challenging the very notion of what reality is. The AIs in this fictional scenario essentially enables everything that the Culture is and they themselves are irrevocably part of the same loose principles and norms that makes up the Culture. As story telling devices, the Minds present that crucial unimaginably complex means to neatly (albeit unsatisfactorily) wrap up a story but going beyond that and looking in-universe and you may come to the realization that the very post scarcity nature of the Culture creates a new set of problems and many of which are conveniently side-stepped by the fact that the very backbone of the Culture (the Minds) are benevolent and deeply uninterested in oppressing their creators (at least the creators of their first generation) and their subsequent progenies.

Life in the Culture is unbelievably dull and less than exciting – at least for those who want more than indulging every whim you can conjure up in an environment in which all physical hazards can be managed and calibrated to your particular liking; interestingly enough, the Culture is aware of this and hence provide those determined enough to do more to live a lasting mark an outlet through contact with other civilization. The Culture as a civilization runs an organization that handles its interactions with other civilizations as well as engage in any military actions if necessary; within contact there is Special Circumstances which is the civilization’s military intelligence and espionage and counter espionage organizations. The whole scenario is one in which the potential of true freedom of choice is mostly possible: you can choose to live your life in whatever fashion you want and there is no one accountable for it other than yourself. I can’t help get the feeling that these are just diversions in the same vein as you have solved all the conceivable problems that you have in life and the next thing remaining is to spread your particular world view to everybody else. The biological citizens of the Culture need such escapes but ultimately I would expect that the core group of Culture Minds that run the entire racket would know that they are just watching a bunch of unpredictable variables mixing it up in slow but hopefully, eventually interesting combination.

Examining any coverage about freedom, what you will mostly overlook is that nobody ever mentions the idea that freedom is not absolute; a truly free individual can equally choose not to be free as that choice is something that has to be afforded to him or her by virtue of his/her freedom. It is a concept that many people would dismiss outright for it sits at odd with their so very human nature but it may point to the notion that we tend to think of freedom as an end in and of itself. To anyone who has spent some thought on the subject, it becomes eminently obvious that the proper end of freedom is happiness and that in itself means that the choice to forgo freedom in order to achieve happiness is just as valid as those who fight to be free of their shackles.

However, take the notion of freedom in the context of a hypothetical post-scarcity scenario, then the interesting question that begs an answer is: does freedom fought for and struggled for leads to greater happiness compared to a freedom that you are given (for lack of a better word)? Look at it in another way: does the fact that you are born rich and hence suffer hunger out of choice make your choice less important compared to someone who does not have such degree of choice? By that analogy then you may postulate the notion that given riches (and the freedom that they afford), you may not end up being happy after all. Don’t get me wrong: not having choice is not a guarantee that you will be happy either as the very lack of choice degrades your very dignity but with an ever more globalized world, it is quite possible to go from rags to riches and then you have the riches problem all over again. Absolute freedom as a means to happiness remains a fallacy.

As more studies into the intersection of sociology, psychology and neuroscience continue, it becomes interesting to ask a question like: is poverty a social disease? I don’t mean it in the material sense of the word but more in a sense that our societal structures encourages abhorrent behaviour in ourselves and with very little chance of actually realizing that there is a much better, more satisfying scope to living life and looking at life. I find the economic concept of positional good quite intriguing in exploring poverty as a social disease; with positional good – you value something because others don’t have it and this applies to luxury goods mostly though I have a hard time figuring out where this line gets drawn when you deal with basic commodities. Our economic frameworks firmly follow the rules of supply and demand and in some sectors it actually becomes necessary to artificially manage supply and demand in order to ensure healthy profits.

Earning money is not an evil in and of itself (I am yet to figure out a convincing way in which a post-scarcity paradigm would emerge from our current economic model but that is a story for another day) but manipulating the system and the rules to up your profit margins is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. The blind pursuit of profits have always made me wonder what drives a true entrepreneur; no doubt, the returns from the business is a key motivator but that is not a sustainable motive as you will soon become encumbered in ways that you will find both limiting and demoralizing to say the least.

List any large corporation that has gained prominence through ruthless attention to its margins and show me the number of tussles they have had with the legal system and/or regulators. It is easy to flippantly conclude that success attracts enemies but please go beyond the enemies’ attempts to get their pound of flesh and you will realize that continued exposure to these fights will at some point limit the ability of the company to rigorously pursue its purpose for being. If this purpose is to make money then there is the unfortunate side-effect that the dominant company in the sector or industry will snap up all and/or the best resources available in the industry/sector and thus becomes more of an inhibitor to true progress through farther transformation and improvement of people’s lives. Money is power and that power can be used to effectively rewrite the laws and/or cause the legal system to grind to a halt as business proceeds but these fights do take their toll on the company in the long run.

Let me circle back to the fictional Culture universe. What underpins Banks’ fiction in the context of Culture is that human spirit, ingenuity, restlessness, inventiveness, curiosity, etc. are largely preserved albeit sometimes taken so far as to be given their own sentience and as such effectively become a moral agent that must fulfil its purpose for being. Too far fetch? Think of a habitat – a house that is sentient and/or damn near sentience and fully aware that it collapsing is definitely against is reason for being and not being habitable is equally an abhorrent outcome to contemplate. The upside of such a contrived analogy is that the house would ensure that everything possible is done to ensure that it is just as worthy of being a house – puts it beyond any casual corruption and definitely any petty thieving (arsonist, burglars – I am looking at you). Of course a determined individual and/or an army would easily bring it down so that should also act as an incentive to stick to the business of being a house (a good little house).

Post-scarcity/Singularity/Heaven can’t come if we can’t relinquish our grasp on things that need not be within our control. We are becoming too powerful in our ability without the necessary fortitude to realize that this same power is easily corrupting us. We need a better way to put away the best of what we are as rational beings and worry about things that we have not figured out yet. The pertinent question remains: what is the best way to put our collective well being beyond our corruption? This is not a new question and since the beginning of time, we have struggled with this question. God exists as the most perfect embodiment of the best of what we are and through the ages people have believed in a supreme being who takes a benevolent interest in the affairs of mere mortals.

Overtime as our knowledge and understanding improved, these believes have shifted subtly but their essence remain the same. We live in a technological age where things are just beginning – for the last 50 years or so all our electronics advances have largely been about replicating our physical, old world. Want an example: you still call the collection of related information on your computer a file and you put them into folders/directories (file cabinets) and the list continues. We have only realized that these electronics can crunch big numbers and serve as vast repositories of data. Replicating our physical and somewhat old ways of looking at the world is a necessary step and it is my hope that in that process we have secured what is good about the past because our increased capabilities are likely to be frightening without the proper foundation. All the improvements in computer hardware and software as well as communication technologies has led some futurist to consider the possibility that we may end up creating the means necessary to put the best of ourselves beyond corruption and the vagaries of our conflicted nature. Most of the said futurist refer to this as the singularity; there is enough literature on the singularity online both in support of and those who are convinced that we are on the verge of creating the famed SkyNet.

My take? I don’t think the singularity is going to be a good thing or a bad thing when and if it happens. The probability that it will be completely sentient at the time of emergence is doubtful at best because that would suggest a trigger event that will make it all come together. At the moment, it is hard to figure out what that is but a possibility exists that sentience will be more an emergent characteristic of the singularity and at least for sometime it will become a true companion to human beings who can afford to use them to their desired ends. This raises the possibility that both good and evil singularities will emerge as these will learn from their makers the various demeanour and tone that they will believe. The scenario presents the most plausible ways to teach and transfer human social constructs like trust and group dynamics; increased use of technologies will enhance (hopefully) our social interactions and in the process also yield hard data which can be analysed and codified into a general framework of human behaviour.

Based on this model then it seems we are just transferring our problems to yet another realm because if it is entirely possible to end up with good and bad singularities, then these are likely to wage wars against each other. So here we go, civil wars wages through AI proxies – but more interesting I think this will give a new level of drama to personal feuds as commanding a horde of these singularities towards your particular goal would be most plausible. Oh, don’t forget that these will quickly come under some sort of legislation which means either you create Judge Dread type singularities or if the law remains as arcane (with regard to the internet specifically) as it is at the moment, then it is just a matter of the law being a polite suggestion without any real chances at enforcements (of course except for instances in which your opponents want to manoeuvre thusly.

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Programming Paradigms

In the past I enjoyed the concept and practice of programming because it provided an opportunity to explore a way of thinking about a problem without the usual constraints that one may face in the real world. The greater challenge (hence satisfaction) is in defining a model that will account for any potential failures and still be able to accomplish its intended purpose. As time passed, I have come to focused specifically on design and the resulting architecture. Designing anything is a process of creating a model that can account for the solutions to aspects of the problem specified. That is reductive in and of itself but there are much more insightful aspects of problem solving that need to be taken into account in designing and developing a solution.

In any design effort, the ability to abstract from the problem remains imperative while the generally accepted adage of too much of [take-your-pick] is a poison applies, abstraction done right can provide a practical solution to a multitude of problems. Programming paradigms have always been about creating models that either provide a way for us to give instructions to computers or a way for us to describe the world in a manner that a computer can comprehend and hence process. Programming languages remain a way for humans (programmers, software engineers, etc) to interact with a computer – giving it instructions on what to do and how to handle the particulars of our reality. The models that are implicitly encoded into programming languages represent our thinking as far as the machine-like view of the world or bringing the machine closer to the way we appreciate the world.

What are generally referred to as low level programming languages were essentially intended to enable us to communicate with computers and as such they bare close relationship to the way in which computers operate. Think of the assembly language and how you program in it.

With time, additional abstractions were added that allows us to focus more on giving computers instructions as opposed to prescribing the manner in which the computer carries out our instructions. This focus on instructions gave raise to what are generally referred to as procedural programming languages in which the emphasis was on results of the operations that need to be accomplished. The ability to focus on what you want done and how it is achieved in steps, obviously led to a greater interest in using computers to carry out what are essentially repetitive tasks that could easily be encoded in a number of functions which can then be executed and produce the desired result (or report errors, if any).

This focus on the procedures that are needed to accomplish a task leads to a huge codebase that is both hard to maintain and/or evolve to meet new and/or changing circumstances. This great problem would apparently seem to come from the fact that the procedural way of software development, does not adequately account for how the real world operates. In the real world, things exist and operate as a single unit – there is no difference between what something is and what it does.

Personally, I get the impression that this is the time when programming became a bit more philosophical in a sense that there is a deliberate effort to model the world in terms of its nature and its essence. The nature of the world, describes what the world is: in OOP, this is simply described as the state of the an object which is typically denoted by properties/attributes/fields, depending on the terminology of your platform of choice. You may notice that the nature of objects so defined does not need to change in order to make things happen because OOP relies on message passing to get Objects with the appropriate nature to carry out the intention of their essence as defined by their nature (what you do is defined by your nature and your nature defines what you do).

While OOP allows for a better abstraction from the real world, the manner in which it has been implemented thus far has a serious short coming. All the OOP languages that I have come across are rather verbose as the design process need to describe any application elements of the problem space in code. With increasingly large programs, it comes much more challenging to maintain large programs or ensure that they are tested to the satisfaction of end users. So, testing frameworks have mushroomed around OOP languages such as Java with JUnit (among so many others).

For all intends and purposes, OOP still bears some lingering association with how a machine would go about processing instructions. The so-called Fourth Generation Languages (4GL) like the Structured Query Language (SQL) has shown us to go about expressing our intention to the machine and have the machine figure out the means of getting to our intentions or at the very least least as close to it as possible. The oft-referenced Moore’s law continues its march into ever more powerful machines albeit in a slightly different way. With powerful processors, driving our computers we do not have to be chained to the vagaries of machine type thinking.

Another more poignant point to consider is the increased use of computers for entertainment (gaming etc), business and socializing. The nature of the problems that face social networking applications are markedly different from what have faced businesses at the advent and development of the current mainstream programming language. A business environment invariably has some kind of structure around it which is encoded in policies, procedures, organization structure and the processes that the organization run. Starting from such a foundation, it is then possible to formulate a few procedures which can be executed at regular or ad hoc basis to great effect. However, consider the way in which social networking sites are used – a single person would have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, YouTube account in addition to web mail accounts. These applications have become people centric and the number of people involved an quickly become a challenge for social networking sites that have managed to garner a big enough following.

The social network craze reveals an interesting dimension of how programming languages have evolved over time. At the outside, a few academicians used computers to help with research and then the business world caught on and now we have to face the reality that perhaps programming languages need to be less rigid. Often when discussing IT related subjects, less rigid may easily lead to less secure though in this context less rigid but more robust would be the best outcome in the evolution of programming languages. Objects are good as way to model the world but they lack a certain degree of expressiveness in effectively illustrating and modeling the state of the world as a seen a person who cares more about getting things done and less about the steps taken to get to the end.

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Evil (being nothing?) must presuppose Good

How possible is it to be nothing? That is the question that has been going through my mind for the better part of the day. Don’t get me wrong, it is an interesting question in and of itself for the meta-physical ramifications are quite interesting to say the least. Before, I go any further, I am not suggesting any kind of formal training in philosophy but thinking about the meaning and reason of things interests me.

In common usage, nothing generally means the absence of something. So the being of nothing is that it is not something. I am not entirely sure if nothing is evil or not so let me spend some thought on being evil; what exactly does being evil mean? Some time ago I was going through an introductory book on theology and I had a mentor so to speak with whom I held discussions after reading the book. The idea that evil does not really exist struck me as odd – evil is a part of life as everyone well know: droughts, famine, epidemics, war etc. So saying that it does not exist seems like a contradiction of terms.

The explanation for asserting that evil does not exist comes from the premise or observation that anything evil is always a corruption of something that is good – either too much of it or too little of it. Hence the aforementioned list would read like insufficient rain (rain is good in the right quantities), insufficient food (food is a good), absence of a cure to a disease that destroys perfectly good cells, using lethal weapons to engage with other people instead of exploring more peaceful means.

In a sense, then evil could be a corruption of something good but it also begs the question of why such corruption of good is common and pervasive? In all these the main actor(s) remains a rational being, like in the case of war and perhaps even drought and famine. There are countries on this earth where their ability to produce food is exceptionally phenomenal but even within their own borders there is still hunger. I doubt the world lacks the ability to feed itself.

So, evil is nothing hence it is not able to sustain itself in a pure form but supposedly good can sustain itself without any evil in it – I suppose that is what God is then. However, how does that contribute to idea of being nothing? The phrase “being nothing” is rather meaningless in itself in a sense that the moment you talk of being, you are already asserting an existence and so you cancel it out by stating that the being is not? I keep hoping to make sense of a much higher abstraction than the notion of being nothing in a sense that nothing can exist hence the foundation seems rather shaky.

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Life Imitations of Fiction?

Edited: Corrected title!

Ok, that should probably be life imitates art but I am increasingly seeing a potential fictional future being constructed right before our very eyes. I like reading fiction, mostly because they provide a chance to examine events from various hypothetical perspectives. It is true that most fiction are based on some kind of reality and that is what make them fiction as opposed to taking leave of one’s faculties.

Movies like Terminator, the Matrix etc bring to life the possible threat that artificial intelligence and robots in general pose to humanity at large. Besides Hollywood having a special effects orgy there are some interesting works of fiction that touch on such subjects. So far I have been an avid reader of the works of Isaac Asimov; one of the good aspects of Asimov works is that humanity is the focus – there are no alien races and the like but the novels focus on the triumphs and failures of the human race as time passes. In the Robot series, the three laws of robotics are prominent to a greater degree as such laws are amended and explored by seemingly intelligent machines.

The three laws of robotics are not in themselves perfect and the amount of materials available (both in support of and against these laws) is quite vast. However, the continued improvements and developments in the fields of artificial intelligence may perhaps lead us to soon require similar guidelines in the implementation of these effective merger of artificial intelligence and robotics. As we assign increasingly complex tasks to automated machinery, it becomes important and efficient to allow these robots to be increasingly autonomous but that autonomy must also not be unlimited.

Until such time that we can successfully create artificial sentience, we are the only species that are capable of a moral (thus ethical) act – judging good from bad and being removed from the chance to make such judgment does present grave threat to how our societies function. What happens when a robot running a factory kills people? Who is responsible for the robot’s actions? They do indeed remain the properties of their respective owners but what kind of liability does the owner have over the actions and decisions of a contraption that seeks to carry out its task as efficiently as possible.

These are weighty issues that authors like Asimov have delved into in a number of books but increased developments in AI and robotics suggests a need for practical and implementable safe guards. Such safe guards become more important in the context of battle robots. These are robots that make life and death decisions will affect their owners (the soldiers in the field) as well as anybody who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a pretty disturbing irony when you consider the fact that a machine (robot) has all the capacity to be as efficient as possible when a robot makes a mistake, it is likely to have a big impact. On the other hand discussions about code of ethics for our creations kind of says a lot about us as creators. Who would be surprised if such code of ethics are designed for our benefit largely while entirely ignoring the potential of a machine?

As someone who is physically handicap, the possibility of an intelligent (albeit artificial) robot enabling the enjoyment of life to its most complete and abundant potential is certainly attractive.

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Abstract Wondering

This year has been interesting so far though the things that I am experiencing and will hopefully experience are diverse and thrusts me to an entirely different level of personal development. I am passionate about technology and would talk anyone’s ear off but of late I have been more open to business ideas. With regard to transforming myself into a consummate businessman, it is a challenging under taking as being physically handicap can quickly get in the way of the scale and success of implementing a business idea. I have found a work around which I hope to devote resources to and see how far all these take me. The underlying concept is to take more risks though of course these will be calculated risks.

While on the subject of risks, I have decided to pursue an evolution of character and personality. A while back, I spent time defining, in broad terms, what my understanding of myself was and over the last 3 or so years I have had trials upon my understanding of myself. Looking back, everything seemed to have worked out; I am not saying that I have reached the epitome of personal/character development but I have managed to define a fundamental understanding of myself that can handle adjustments when needed and can successfully navigate pit falls on the way. However, in all that evolution there is an element of risk-taking which I didn’t quite incorporate into it all. That’s the reason why this year shall be different and geared towards addressing my aversion to personal risk taking. There are those who will differ with my self assessment but I tend to think that long term I need to take more risk and that is one of the only ways I can truly reach my potential.

Aversion to risk taking could stem from so many other forces which can range from a fragile ego to simply an inability to handle any failure. However, it is quite possible that aversion to risk might also be caused by a fear to succeed wherein success more often than not leads to additional responsibility for your creation and its effects. It is akin to one day you are a nobody and the next day you have responsibility to a number of other people or businesses. That can sure lead to some doubt about any under taking. Perhaps, I could say that I am of this group – those who are afraid of success. From this perspective, it would seem that success can possibly rob me of my personal freedom but at the same time it is much more rewarding to be responsible for something that has far greater ramifications than anything whose effects are limited to an individual.

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It is another year: Happy belated New Year!!

Wow, I have really been keeping to myself in the last couple of weeks; it can all be chalked down to life acquiring a more emergency feel to it so in such situations I usually clump down and focus. I am back on the blogsphere, as they call it but that does not mean that the emergency is over; I suspect I am finally getting the hang of it. I have always been thinking that I should have a recap of what the previous year was like.

The Previous Year …

Don’t you just like what hindsight does to events? It was an OK year which is not to say that it was all roses and party all through but all the things that didn’t pan out and those that did work out all came to balance each other out. Each variety of these events led to a new discovery which almost always leads to a better way of doing things. Please note that better does not always mean a positive improvement but even the attempts at doing less of a good thing is equally an improvement in a certain sense.

At the start of 2007, I setout to gain a much better understanding of people at their own level while at the same time asserting myself when it was necessary and important that I do so. In the process I have met several new acquaintances and perhaps in my own understanding came across a number of things that can and/or can’t stand. In this regard, without going to specifics, I have stuck to the notion of not fixing that which is not broken and of course the interpretation that can be had from that perspective are as varied as the motives and intentions of the interpreter.

One of the more challenging aspects of the previous year was the amount of complication that my life has amassed; yes, I am probably doing too much but then again without reaching that critical point (the breaking point), I can’t be sure that that is all I am capable of. Broadly speaking, I had to contend with school work and at the same time work out the ideas that I have in mind of how I am going to put that education to good use after it is all said and done. I am almost done with this school business which is not the main worry that I have in mind; I am more concerned about what happened when I am suppose to be applying my education to productive (and hopefully wildly profitable) endeavors. I should probably share my thoughts about my approach to how I am intend to make use of my education, given the limitations that I have. Well, calling them limitations may not be that accurate since I prefer to see them as challenges and all challenges go there is usually a way of overcoming them.

In a way, I am still waiting for my Christmas to come around; last year’s festive season kind of snuck up on me while I was not looking. I have been told that the festive season is usually important for the kids and I think I am finally accepting that the last three years had nothing to do with my circumstances at the time. Anyhow, so it came and it went and after it comes the new year which was not that new.

Technology wise, it was an interesting year (like there is any year that is not interesting in the tech sector!). This was the year when I decided to get very personal and intimate with Linux; I am happily running Ubuntu at the moment and gradually gaining know-how though there is room for further exploration. It was in 2007 that I came to recognize the power of concurrency and how it fundamentally changes software development from a fundamental perspective. Multi-cores processes are one of the main ways through which Moore’s Law will continue to be relevant but these processors brings with them concurrency which is relatively new to bulk of programmers who are producing software for the past 20 years. These corporate programmers are not particularly interested in the computer science behind it and in some instances some CS graduates who should know the fundamentals of computers are happy using tools like Visual Basic and others while proudly proclaiming that they are programmers. Anyhow, the free ride of performance increases purely from Moore’s will be coming to an end soon. Please note that this is not something that is necessarily new but it has occupied my thoughts in a fundamental way in the previous year. My response to it was to gain a better understanding of concurrency and its future implications on software development and what the industry is currently doing to prepare the masses to adopt.

One of the key ways of leveraging the power of multi-core processors is making tools that are amenable to concurrency; functional programming have been around for a while as illustrated by existence of functional programming languages like Haskell and Erlang (Wikipedia). Functional programming and features inspired by functional programming languages can give us the tools that are necessary in a multi-core world; this has been happening in a number of R&D departments in large corporations as well as in campuses around the world. Microsoft announced the include of their F# programming language in their .NET Framework. At the heart of all these are ideas that are central to the running of current systems in the name of shared state and mutability.

Mobile Phones certainly was the source of a sizable number of headlines. The now infamous iPhone hit the market and of course towards the close of the year Google took an interest in the mobile phone sector by releasing Android. All of a sudden it looks like mobility is the thing to be and it may well be where it is going to be. The so-called developing countries and/or emerging economies are dominated by mobile telephony and associated services that are consumed through mobile devices.

Note: this is not all that happened last year but these are just the highlights that I can put in any semblance of order of the top of my head.

… New year: 2008

Only one digit has changed in the sequence of the supposedly new year. Look at it this way: how many Jans, Febs … etc have you done already? If you are in the group of people who thing that Christmas is just some kind of a global mass hysteria, then you have probably done a couple of the aforementioned list. So, this year is new because of a change in a single digit; please contrast that with something as monumental as the sun rising from the west and setting in the east or perhaps a brand new sun appearing on the horizon. Well, no matter the change it is as new as it gets and the next new year will build on this very concept as it has always done more than 2000 years (depending on your Calendar of choice) before.

So … let’s see what happens this year. The much that have happened already may be the subject of a future post.

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