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For some reason, Rory seems to think that I'm capable of provoking him into a little bit of thinking. I hardly think so.

But more to the point, my prior post about technology and progress was a bit “tongue & cheek” since I was mostly talking about a video game. However, it is an idea that has been bothering me for a while.

I agree with Rory about the future as it relates to Artificial Intelligence; however, since Rory stated it better than I ever could, I will leave it to you see his post. Instead, I will try to post more about the role of both the present and the near future in technological progress. This way, maybe we can start thinking about a “road map“ of steps needed to get where we would like to be twenty years down the road.

So, the first question I propose is “what is progress“? What does it mean to “make progress” driven by technology? I personally don't believe that the future of technology lies in handwriting recognition, fancy candy blue user interfaces, or nation-wide walkie talkies. I may be showing my own Star Trek roots here, but I believe that the future of technology lies in voice-recognition software. Granted, I could just cop-out and say that the future of technology lies in holodecks, transporters, and replicators, but where would the fun in that be? Regardless of where you might think the future of technology lies, it is important to figure out what steps are needed in order to get to that future. In other words, it is most useful to have a set of directions when trying to reach any given destination.

Before looking at the first couple of steps we could possibly take though, I believe that we have to determine what type of progress that we wish to look at. The obvious area is the “appearance” of progress as it concerns non-computer-literate users (the end user). The other area that I, perhaps selfishly, care more about is the progress that allows software engineers to be able to build the technology of the future. In other words, which should come first? Technology that makes peoples lives easier? Or technology that makes developing technology that makes people lives easier, easier? For most (especially engineers), the answer to this may seem obvious. To be most successful as a developer, architectures and frameworks are vital. You can not underestimate the importance of these! Where would all the .NET developers be without the base class libraries?

It is nice to consider what the future will bring us and how the future will make our lives easier, but the real question is “what steps can we take to put ourselves in a place that makes developing the software of the future possible“?

So what steps do need to be taken in order to build an environment that fosters the advancement of technologically-driven progress? The first applicable step, in my opinion, is the growth of maturity in software development/engineering. For a second, lets compare software engineering to structural engineering (yeah, like this hasn't been done before!). The last person I want to engineer a bridge is a person who has learned to build bridges as a hobby. I would rather have a certified engineering professional do the job.

The next step, which almost goes hand-in-hand with the first step, has to do with accountability. Today, as far as I know (I'm not even going to pretend to be knowledgeable in the ways of software-related law), if people were to die because of a software program, it is difficult to hold the developer(s) of that program accountable for their role in the deaths of the people (anyone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong). However, if a bridge were to collapse, killing many people, that's a different story.

I know these steps aren't “breakthroughs“ or anything (or even that numerous or thought-provoking), but I thought I might try to jump-start any kind of conversation I can with you readers, Rory, and his readers.

Perhaps with that I will close this post. Now, I will readily admit that I could be way off-base here as I am far from an expert in any of the areas mentioned above.

Posted on Monday, December 8, 2003 11:41 PM | Back to top

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