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Re: The future of software design

by blssu (Pilgrim)
on Oct 18, 2002 at 18:28 UTC ( #206396=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to The future of software design

If programming was going to turn into something like civil engineering or auto repair, it would have already. The computer industry is 50 years old.

Programming is not just about "design" or "repair" work. Sometimes it's more like archaeology or tool and die making. We're dealing with complex artifacts built by humans -- sometimes for completely unknown reasons. Frequently we're not powerful enough to solve problems directly so we must invent new tools.

Programming jobs also blur into many different fields. Industrial design, writing and economics are pieces of tasks that programmers usually end up doing themselves.

Anyways, the future is going to be a lot like today until a machine-mind interface appears (call the result a "Spiritual Machine" if you're a Kurzweil fan). I have no idea what will happen, but I expect programming will be the first field to find out.

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Re: Re: The future of software design
by stefp (Vicar) on Oct 19, 2002 at 15:05 UTC
    Anyways, the future is going to be a lot like today until a machine-mind interface appears (call the result a "Spiritual Machine" if you're a Kurzweil fan). I have no idea what will happen, but I expect programming will be the first field to find out.

    I don't believe much in such direct machine-mind interface "added" to adults and that would not be ethical to mess with babies.

    We already have interfaces with the extern world: sensors and effectors. If they are not connected at birth and appropriately trained, they will not be effective later. A blind person at birth that recovers later cannot make sense of the new deluge of information.

    What we do currently makes a lot of sense, we create extensions of our existing senses and effectors (displays, cars...). We have a better understanding of this interfaces to the world than about our brain internal working.

    This idea of machine-mind interface is implicitely based on the (probably false) assumption of an existing brain "API". As I said about existing human effector and sensor, this API exists as a potentiality but fully develop only if we use these sensors and effectors.

    About thought formalized thru language, things are even more complicated. How could we hook directly to something we don't know anything substantial about.

    A good (but not recent) book about language and learning is "theorie du langage et de l'apprentissage" which is the report of meetings between Chomsky, Piaget, Papert and many other luminaries. I don't know if there is a English edition though.

    -- stefp -- check out Nemo

      I agree that connecting sensors to humans would not be very beneficial. Human senses are exquisite.

      What I really need is a few terabytes of error-free, short-term memory! That was the machine-mind interface I was thinking of. It would definitely make me a better programmer. Unfortunately, programs built by people with augmented memory would probably not be maintainable by normal humans.

Re: Re: The future of software design
by Anonymous Monk on Oct 20, 2002 at 05:32 UTC
    "If programming was going to turn into something like civil engineering or auto repair, it would have already. The computer industry is 50 years old."

    Yeah, sure -- we've been making buildings for thousands of years, but a formal civil engineering practice is only a (relatively) recent innovation. Previously builders just sort of did their best and learned from others mistakes. A lot like how programming (currently) is.

    I think it's _way_ too early to see where computer programming is going to end up. Neither of the analogies is particularly apt, since civil engineering is essentially applying scientific methods to well-understood problems. A particular steel beam might have a particular tensile strength, weight, and other well-known properties. Likewise a wooden beam has "well known" properties. The decision of which to use is based on mathmatical formulas balancing cost vs. risk.

    Likewise with the auto-mechanic analogy -- you can become an auto mechanic with little or no formal training, simply learning on the job. Unfortunately you also don't need an IQ much above 80 either. In any event, auto mechanics don't build cars or design them -- professional engineers do that.

    I tend to agree with another poster that pushed a craftsman analogy. Although craftsmen are basically seat-of-the-pants engineers, they do make things (unlike mechanics), and their work is as much art as science (much like programming is right now). Blacksmiths might not know the precise tensile strength of a particular metal bar, but they can experiment a bit and probably find something that will work.

    I think that this 'craftsmen' approach to programming will disappear, replaced with an 'engineer' approach, but only as the problem domains become well-known, predictable, and measurable. This might take hundreds of years, by which time human 'computer engineers' will probably be replaced with intelligent systems, and programming will be like talking to an assistant is now.

      Modern societies have big egos. Were the Great Pyramids one of the early mistakes? ;)

      Programmers have a bit of power now. If we wanted to, we could easily create formal social/professional structures. Do you want them? I don't. Who does? Will your government create them? Would you oppose that? I would.

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