Startups are Creating a New System of the World for IT

Startups are Creating a New System of the World for IT

Todd Hoff writes:

It remains that, from the same principles, I now demonstrate the frame of the System of the World. — Isaac Newton

The practice of IT reminds me a lot of the practice of science before Isaac Newton. Aristotelianism was dead, but there was nothing to replace it. Then Newton came along, created a scientific revolution with his System of the World. And everything changed. That was New System of the World number one.

New System of the World number two was written about by the incomparable Neal Stephenson in his incredible Baroque Cycle series. It explores the singular creation of a new way of organizing society grounded in new modes of thought in business, religion, politics, and science. Our modern world emerged Enlightened as it could from this roiling cauldron of forces.

In IT we may have had a Leonardo da Vinci or even a Galileo, but we’ve never had our Newton. Maybe we don’t need a towering genius to make everything clear? For years startups, like the frenetically inventive age of the 17th and 18th centuries, have been creating a New System of the World for IT from a mix of ideas that many thought crazy at first, but have turned out to be the founding principles underlying our modern world of IT.

If you haven’t guessed it yet, I’m going to make the case that the New System of the World for IT is that much over hyped word: cloud. I hope to show, using many real examples from real startups, that the cloud is built on a powerful system of ideas and technologies that make it a superior model for delivering IT.

Interesting piece but Todd misses a couple of critical points:

First, Newton was wrong. (full stop) True, his imagining of the world was sufficient and over-determining for centuries, but it wasn’t true. It took until the 20th century for his hegemony to be over turned but it was.

Newtonian mechanics are still taught, but for how much longer? As our understanding of quantum systems grow and our designs move closer and closer to realms unimagined by Newton.

Second, every effort you find at Sourceforge or Freshmeat or similar locales, is the project of someone or small group of someones, all utterly convinced that their project has some unique insight that isn’t contained in the other N projects of the same type. That may well be true, at least for some of them.

But the point remains that the “cloud” enables that fracturing of IT services to a degree not seen up until now. Well, at least not for a long time.

I remember there being 300 or so formats that conversion software offered to handle. How many exist in the cloud today? How many do you think there will be a year from now? (Or perhaps better, how many clouds do you think there will be a year from now?)

With or without the cloud, greater data access is going to drive the need for an understanding and modeling of the subject identities that underlie data and its structures. Brave new world or no.

Enjoy your Newtonian (or is that Napoleonic?) dreams.

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