These are interesting times – whatever your political affiliations or wherever in the world you might be. In this context, technology is a two-edged sword — it holds both great promise and enormous risk. We can choose be evangelists or doom-mongers, or we can simply recognise this dichotomy: for every healthcare breakthrough, there will be a fake news, and so on.
It was probably ever thus — one can imagine the dawn of the iron age, when somebody chose to make a sword even as somebody else made a ploughshare. With each breakthrough comes a breakdown, an opportunity to exploit as well as enhance, and yet somehow we are still here; I remain optimistic that humanity as a whole will prevail, whatever the short-term challenges.
We don’t always make it easy for ourselves. Older companies struggle with innovation for a thousand reasons, leaving gaps for others to fill to sometimes dramatic effect. And meanwhile, our legal systems remain behind the curve, their multi-year, consensus-driven models rendered hopelessly inadequate by the pace of change. And technology is so complex, it can raise unexpected and massive challenges (such as the latest Meltdown and Spectre security flaws in computer chips).
To whit, this bulletin. As I write this, I am reminded of Alistair Cooke’s Letters From America, a weekly new broadcast which ran from 1946 to 2004. Cooke was always the observer, his role to enlighten. I stand more chance of achieving the latter than I do matching his longevity, he died at 96 but I would be 110 by the time I finished if I kept going that long. I can only hope medical science has a few tricks up its sleeve.
So, what’s news?
I wish I’d thought of Kai Stinchcombe’s tagline on Medium, “I’m whatever the opposite of a futurist is.” I recently documented my top 5 2018 predictions as follows:
1. GDPR will be a costly, inadequate mess. No doubt GDPR will one day be achieved, but the fact is that it is already out of date. For one, simple reason: we will consent to have our privacy even more eroded than it already is. Watch this space
2. Artificial Intelligence will create silos of smartness. Integration work will keep us busy for the next year or so, even as learning systems evolve. c.f. This piece on the Register: Skynet it ain’t: Deep learning will not evolve into true AI, says boffin.
3. 5G will become just another expectation. But its physical architecture, coupled with software standards like NFV, may offer a better starting point than the current, proprietary-mast-based model.
4. Attitudes to autonomous vehicles will normalize. Attention will increasingly turn to brands — after all, if you are going to go for a drive, you might as well do so in comfort, right?
5. When Bitcoins collapse, blockchains will pervade. The principle can apply wherever the risk of fraud could also exist, which is just about everywhere. But this will take time
6. The world will keep on turning. As Isaac Asimov once wrote, “An atom-blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways.” Okay, this last one isn’t really a prediction, more an observable fact.
DevOps Automation report
Let’s be clear, it was always about what’s currently being labelled DevOps: if you can do things faster, test them and get them into production quicker, you can find out what you really need and move on. This shouldn’t be rocket science but it is very hard for us humans to get our brains around. In this article I cite Barry Boehm, founder of the spiral methodology — I was surprised to find that it emerged in the 80’s, not the 70’s but no doubt prototyping approaches have existed since the invention of the wheel.
Why do (in-expert) organisations think they are secure?
This is the first in a series of “unanswered questions” — you know, the ones that nag at you but never really get tacked. In this case it was from security expert Ian Murphy — “Why do companies with little or no real security experience think they know their environment better than anyone else?” I welcome any additional questions you may have.
In other news, over the break I was involved in a Christmas single which is raising money for mental health charities (I’m also in the video); I have a weekly podcast with my mate Simon; and alongside my writing, I have fallen madly in love with the piano so I have set two challenges for 2018: to finish a novel and to play Widor’s Toccata on the biggest church organ I can find. I’ve started a video blog on the latter if you want to follow my progress.