Thursday, February 02, 2012

In search of Spime Script ...

Back in 2006, I gave a talk at Euro OSCON on the future of technology covering commoditisation with a specific focus on 3D printing. This was based upon research and talks I'd given many years earlier on the subject.

Our world is heading in a fairly clear direction in terms of continual evolution of business activities such as commoditisation of discrete IT components, creation of higher order systems, disruption of past industries, development and exploitation of ecosystems, co-evolution of practice and ... well, I've covered this lots.

The strategic use of open source as a weapon is also becoming more common along with the new forms of organisation that are necessary to cope with this more evolved world. We should see the development of higher order agents and hence augmented intelligence with Siri being a starting point on this journey. Increasingly organisation will learn to exploit flow, the natural evolutionary path of any activity from chaotic (genesis) to the more linearly ordered environments (commodity and utility services). Flow was a topic I touched up again in Strata last year.

The reactions of past industries (e.g. legal protection as barrier to entry), the inertia of many, the next wave of change (being commoditisation of the manufacturing process), explosions of un-modeled data, the confusion, the arguments  ... oh, it's the same cycle.

Don't worry if you're missing out in the buzz around today's hot topic (commoditisation of IT nee cloud) or tomorrow's (commoditisation of manufacturing nee 3D printing) as there's much more to come and invariably the giants of today will fail to cope with flow and new giants will appear to replace them.

The trends are already in motion and it's just a question of how the game plays out. To mangle one of Tim O'Reilly's favourite phrases - the future has been here for some time, it's just not uniformly distributed.

So, I want to return to one part of that 2006 presentation which I still find relevant - the formation of Spime Script. We're entering a phase where hardware will become increasingly as malleable as software which leads to a problem of choice - if I want to change the function of something, do I do this in software or hardware? The tendency today is obviously towards software because its more malleable  but the future is never the past. However this creates a problem of skill - will I need to become proficient in both software and CAD / electronic design?

In reality both CAD and whatever software language you use, compile down to instruction sets and the function of the device is the interaction of these instruction sets - one which is substantiated physically and the other which is substantiated digitally.

Turning this on its head then why not write the function of what you want, the function of the device. Compilers can therefore undertake the complex decision trees (which is what they're good at) required to determine what element of that function is encoded as physical and what element is digital.

A future language is needed, something whereby the output is both physical and digital and I describe merely the function of what I'm after.

A sort of ...

class smartphone : public phone, public camera, public calculator, public GPC
mydevice smartphone
mydevice.colour = blue, .os = android, .connection = wifi, .storage = cloud
mydevice inherit public walkie_talkie
mydevice inherit public watch
mydevice.format = wearable, .location = wrist, .materials = recyclable

and let the complier work out the best way of making this. Maybe the watch will be digital, maybe it'll decide that a mechanical self winding element is required etc.

This may sound like crazy talk of the form "that'll never happen", "it's too complex", "technology could never do this" etc but I'm used to a world where today's impossible things become tomorrow's Walmart special offers.

Anyway, I'm interested in whether people are working in this space. It's about the right time for Spime Script to start emerging, so leave me a comment, pointers welcome.

--- Update 26 August 2014

Unfortunately the video of the talk from Euro OSCON 2006 has now been removed on due to their wonderfully awful change of service. Thanks Blip.

So here are the original slides, now uploaded to slide share which is mainly based upon research I had done much earlier (varies between 1998-2004) with some updates for changes that were happening at the time.


Barclays Watch said...

Actually the quote about the future is originally William Gibson: Otherwise a crude version of what you describe is easy [if trivial] some little tree of CAD files and a parser. That takes it up to proof of concept anyway.

Simon Wardley said...

@Barclays Watch : Thanks for that - I'm specifically looking for projects working in that space.

phil jones said...

Hi Simon,

Wrote a quick response / placeholder post here :


Bologna744 said...


I read this post 2 times. It is very useful.

Pls try to keep posting.

Let me show other source that may be good for community.

Source: Product KPIs

Best regards

Camberley Bates said...

Found you through a retweet - excellent post and discussion, John Webster on our team recently wrote a post about the End of the Storage Vs Server Wars? which along the same vein, I agree it will be interesting to see how the larger vendors respond to the new innovations. Still - data storage is probably one of the slowest moving tech's due to risk.