Category Archives: Neuroscience

Why 2010 won’t be like “2010”.

It’s that time of year where pundits prognosticate about the upcoming year. I’ll bite–MMX (that’s Roman numeral for 2010) is shaping up to be a doozy of a year (although I prefer 7DA, which is 2010 in hex). Last night I decided to re-watch 2010 “The year we make contact”. It’s still an incredible movie and a fascinating way to examine people’s assumptions and predictions about the future. The book 2010 was published by Arthur C Clarke in January of 1982. Some of the striking differences between today and the 2010 imagined by Arthur C Clarke in his book include:

  • The radical advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the form of the HAL 9000 computer
  • Substantial investment in Space Exploration including a second manned trip to Jupiter 9 years after 2001, the first trip
  • Nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union, a nation that no longer exists
  • Contact between a super powerful alien race and humankind (this might yet happen but time is short)
  • Computer User Interfaces are barely better than a dumb terminal

It’s interesting how the predictions often say more about the time of publication and about the author than about the future–in the 1980’s the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, as portrayed in the movie WarGames, which came out in 1983. Of course the advancement in the space program was a fond hope of Arthur C. Clarke, who is certainly a childhood hero of mine in terms of his message of technology transcendentalism and his pioneering science-based fiction.

So with this backdrop, I will venture to make my own technology predictions for 2010, focused on Enterprise Software, Cloud Computing and related topics.

Prediction 1: nothing will happen in 2010


A bold prediction. I’ve already read my share of predictions for 2010 including those from:

  1. Dave Linthicum (Cloud drives data integration)
  2. Michael Cote (The internet of things becomes real)
  3. JP Morgenthal (Cybersecurity will be hot)
  4. Nenshad Bardoliwalla (Predictive, real-time Enterprise will start to show results)
  5. A bunch of analysts summarized by Jonny Bentwood (Windows Mobile will fail)
  6. Om Malik (FaceBook IPO)
  7. Ravit Lichtenberg (Enterprises will shape Social Media)
  8. Ken Camp (Ballmer will leave Microsoft(!))
  9. Ray Kurzweil (Supercomputers will achieve the same raw processing power as human brains)
  10. Jeremy Liew(Social Gaming goes big)
  11. Jake Sorofman(IT leaders will tackle IT Complexity)
  12. David B. Thomas(ROI for Social Media is defined)
  13. Alex Williams(SaaS Integrations)
  14. Nancy Weil (Oracle finally nabs Sun)

to name a few…

I’ve listed (in parentheses) some of the predictions made, above. First of all, the predictions I highlighted were the ones I found the most interesting. Aside from the unlikely (Steve Ballmer will leave Microsoft) and the just-plain-crazy (Supercomputers will achieve the same raw processing power as human brains), I can’t say that any of these predictions gets my blood moving. All due respect to those pundits and prognosticators, many of whom I consider my friends and colleagues.

So why won’t anything happen in 2010?

The short version is that big changes that you’d notice take a long time. It also happens that such changes also take a very short time.

If you find the previous statements irritating or conflicting, you are not alone. Big changes in technology and society are frequently driven by exponential functions–and Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus at UC Boulder (many thanks to my friend @avh for tweeting this video) makes a solid case that “The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race is the Inability to Understand the Exponential Function”. If you feel challenged by my previous statements, please take the time to have a look at this video:

As you can see, the exponential function is just a fixed percentage of growth that compounds. Albert Einstein never said “Compound Interest is the most powerful force in the Universe”, but he should have. The exponential function is the fundamental driver of many driving forces and the resulting human impact. This includes:

  • human population growth (overcrowding)
  • energy consumption (oil prices)
  • pollution emissions (global warming)
  • transistor density on a chip (computer industry)
  • DNA sequencing rate (Human Genome project)

Almost all of the hugely transformational items on any technologist’s list for the Enterprise are going to be growing slowly next year. Service Oriented Architecture(SOA), Business Process Management(BPM), Cloud Computing and others. According to IDC Chief Analyst Frank Gens (@fgens), “2010 will be a year of modest recovery for the IT and telecommunications industries. But the recovery will not mean a return to the pre-recession status quo. Rather, we’ll see a radically transforming marketplace — driven by surging demand in emerging markets, growing impact from the cloud services model, an explosion of mobile devices and applications, and the continuing rollout of higher-speed networks. These transformational forces will drive key players to redefine themselves and their offerings and will spark lots of M&A activity.”

Clearly, things like Twitter (tip of the hat to @ev @biz @jack and the other twitter revolutionaries like @loic @shellen and @pistachio) and Twitterati like @missrogue and of course twitter pundits like @jowyang @enderle @rafe @davewiner @scobleizer @debs @rwang0 @monkchips @dana_gardner and way too many more to mention.

But many of the core transformational topics in Enterprise Computing will be growing at single and double (but not triple) digit rates.

Ok, nothing is going to happen, now what?

We’ve established some very Twitter friendly names for 2010 such as MMX (the Roman) and 7DA (the Geek). But to peer farther into the future we should take a look at the upcoming decade. Every decade has a bit of a “theme” that emerges that you can use for when you have nostagia parties in future years. Here are some examples:

  • The Psychadelic Sixties 1960-1969
  • The Disco Seventies 1970-1979
  • The Yuppie Eighties 1980-1989
  • The Internet Nineties 1990-1999
  • The Miserable Naughties 2000-2009

Yes, we are good and ready for the Naughties to be over. Bad Naughties, no Krispy Kreme donut (NYSE:KKD)! Lets look back to January 2000.

Back then, wonderful things were happening like AOL was acquiring Time-Warner! The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all time high of 11,750.28. Unemployment was at 4.1%. The biggest thing we had to worry about was the Y2K bug, which turned out to be no big deal.

Just a short (almost) ten years later and Time-Warner is divesting AOL, the Dow Jones Industrials are lower, Unemployment is at 10%, and we’re fighting global warming, economic collapse and Al Qaeda. Can I just say that we are all SICK and TIRED of the Naughties, the nothings, the zero decade, the lost decade, the decade from hell.

Predictions for the Teenies

Technically if the 2020’s will be called the “twenties”, perhaps the next decade should be called the “tens”. I’m not keen to focus on the early part of the decade, so I am going to point to 2013 and beyond, which we can refer to as the “Teenies” (2013-2019). If we absolutely must have a name for the interim period, lets call them the “Tweenies” (kids aged 10-12 are referred to as such). A few other reasons why I like Teenies as a name for this upcoming decade is:

  • We are an adolescent species, mere teenagers–more on this later
  • Growth in this decade will come from “teeny” things

As many forecasters will tell you, it will take a good long time to build our way out of what’s now called The Great Recesssion–and though we are seeing “green shoots” now, it will take a long time, well into the decade to start to see the significant effects. So to be fair, the prediction made earlier that “nothing will happen in 2010″ can be recast as a prediction about the decade as a whole–and in this spirit, lets carry on making some predictions about the Teenies.

Prediction 2: Very Teeny Things Become Very Big

Here’s the short list of very small things that will become very big in this upcoming decade:

  • The Higgs Boson
  • The Carbon Dioxide Molecule
  • Genomics & Personal Medicine
  • Implantable computing
  • C60
  • Chlorophyll and Artificial Photosynthesis
  • Dehalococcoides ethenogenes and other pollution eating microbes
  • injectable nanosensors
  • Self-replicating nanobots

Among many others. This prediction is of course very general, but it is intended to provide an impressionistic view on some of the leading advances approaching the boundary of industrial exploitation. In computing in particular, quantum computing is beginning to show promise, as is nanoassembly which is the more bottom-up approach to extremely small circuit design. at the 45nm chip design scale, the fabrication costs are already growing prohibitive. Nanotechnology is also showing tremendous promise in transforming the storage industry.

Prediction 3: Storage and Persistence are transformed

Naturally storage experiences a doubling interval similar to Moore’s law. But we are reaching a significant inflection point, both for the application requirements of persistence as well as the persistence technologies. companies like Steve Wozniak’s FusionIO are pioneering solid state technologies and distributed caching technologies are radically improving performance across traditional APIs according to researchers like Forrester’s @JohnRRymer and @MGualtieri. Companies like TerraCotta and RNA Networks and others are leading the charge. The exciting thing about these technologies is that they are completely disruptive technologies but also backwards compatible with today’s technology APIS, so they can be inserted into everyday applications. Unlike the radical wave of “Complex Event Processing” (CEP) vendors such as StreamBase that require completely rewritten applications (even as they use familiar SQL-like query languages), these solutions provide up to 6 orders of magnitude theoretical performance basis (millisecond disk access vs nanosecond RAM access) over interfaces such as filesystem mount points.

Beyond these advances in software, we see hardware advances such as bottom up storage using nanoscale self-assembly. Ting Xu, a UC Berkeley assistant professor with joint appointments in the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering and the Department of Chemistry, says in the February issue of the journal Science: “The density achievable with the technology we’ve developed could potentially enable the contents of 250 DVDs to fit onto a surface the size of a quarter”. “The challenge with photolithography is that it is rapidly approaching the resolution limits of light,” added Xu. “In our approach, we shifted away from this ‘top down’ method of producing smaller features and instead utilized advantages of a ‘bottom up’ approach. The beauty of the method we developed is that it takes from processes already in use in industry, so it will be very easy to incorporate into the production line with little cost.”

Prediction 4: Just like teenagers, we have trouble getting over ourselves

Despite utopian visions like Star Trek, the “Enterprise” struggles with it’s scale. The Star Trek universe is based on the concept of “Federation”. Daryl Plummer, VP and Research Fellow at Gartner defined Federation as “what autonomy you have to give up in order to be part of something bigger.” This is a great definition as it speaks to organizational silos as well as down to individuals in the Enterprise. I wrote about this challenge both in my blog post “There is no “I” in IT–oh yes there is” and a rational response at the Enterprise IT level in the InfoQ article “SOA Governance Revitalized” (thanks @FloydMarinescu and Ryan Slobojan @straxus)

The Shift Index 2009 (download the abstract here), published by @JHagel shows how poor we are at scaling organization. Since 1965, Return on Asset has declined 75% across US Public Corporations.


We’re not good at federation and scaling organization.

Tribalism is one of the biggest roadblocks to smooth scaling of the provider side of large-scale provisioning of dynamic business applications. What do I mean by “dynamic business applications”? I borrowed the term from @JohnRRymer and his seminal research paper The Dynamic Business Applications Imperative: The Principles Of “Design For People, Build For Change” Will Anchor A New Generation Of Business Applications. How do these applications differ from “static” business applications? I think this was best summarized in my recent tweet:


Even Order-To-Cash is going to require collaboration across Enterprise technology silos and Organizational tribes. The problem of Great-Idea-In-The-Shower-To-Cash requires Enterprise collaboration and continuous measurement, alignment and accountability across organizational boundaries. The problem is, the Enterprise may not be the best place for this kind of innovation. Recall that Enterprises are defined (yeah defined by me in this blog post: Top 5 Definitions of Enterprise) as organizations that require size and longevity in order to pursue their mission. The problem with size and longevity is the production of organizational and technology silos.

This results in a complex IT supply…

What remains to be seen is if organizations of size and longevity (read: fat and old) can collaborate at a rate competitive with smaller (perhaps Dunbar-number-sized) organizations. Christopher Allen (@ChristopherA) has an excellent blog post on organizational size as it relates to Dunbar’s number (commonly approximated as 150 people). These smaller organizations can have simpler IT (such as Cloud Powered) while being able to integrate and meet complex business requirements and form complex value chains. Large organizations will not be able to retain talent during the economic upturn and growth of the Teenies, nor will they be able to acquire and consolidate innovators due to the reopening of the IPO markets and the expansion of Market Capitalization proportional to the growth potential of these innovators.

Prediction 5: Trust will take time to heal

One of the reasons for Prediction 1 is the speed at which trust can be restored to the economy. The principle of exponential growth can be seen as a simple reiteration of the financial principle of Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). However, exponential growth can also be a hiding place for charlatanism and multibillion dollar fraud schemes such as those perpetrated by Former NASDAQ Chairman Bernard Madoff.

The ripple effect is both cause and effect–the collapse of the pillars of the economy produces large scale job losses–which also puts fear and mistrust into the economy. Lets take a look at an animation that graphically depicts this blow to our economy regionally in the United States:

Thanks to Super VC David Hornik (@DavidHornik) for tweeting this video.

Speaking of Venture Capital–these are the people who are investing in exponential growth. Trust is returning to those markets as well with Benchmark’s amazing day thanks to Peter Fenton (@PeterFenton) and RedPoint’s successful IPO of Fortinet. Since the greatest failing of humankind is the inability to understand the exponential function, it is hard to understand how to combine trust with transformation and the unique chemistry that is Silicon Valley.

But at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of only 14% we have a doubling interval of 5 years. And interestingly enough, we are experiencing a much shorter cycle time for technology adoption. It took 38 years for radio to attract the first 50 million users. It took 13 years for Television to hit a similar number of users. 4 years for the Internet, 3 years for the iPod and less than 2 years for FaceBook. So we are very bad at understanding the exponential function and also terrible at federation and scaling organization. But the good news is that we have a tailwind.

My 2 cents,


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What I learned from Woz

Miko and Woz

So I had the great benefit of having breakfast with Steve Wozniak, keynote speaker at our Innovation World conference in Miami Florida, then of course listening to him speak.

This was a great occasion as I have long been a fan of Apple Computer (and an occasional fan of Apple Inc., but that’s a different story). Although I learned computing on the Atari 400 computer (yes with the cheezy keyboard), this 6502 processor based wonder owed a lot to the origins of the home computer and yes to Steve Wozniak, designer of this and many other computers.

Woz talked about how he designed the first “One player version of Pong” using 44 chips (or some variant of that, my memory fails me) which was of course the original and venerable “breakout” game, based on a contract negotiated by none other that Steve Jobs, the other Apple Computer cofounder and also Silicon Valley legend.

The thing that fascinated me about what Steve Wozniak kept emphasizing is how innovation comes out of “lean” environments–how trying to design systems with the fewest number of chips makes them mass production ready and how changing the world relies on making really lean systems design. This is really innovation for the age of recession 101.

It’s interesting because people talk about lowercase “i” innovation and capital “I” innovation. Now lowercase “i” innovation includes such ideas as Kaizen, or Continuous Process Improvement. This is the idea that small incremental improvements can lead to serious transformation. The company that is often heralded for this approach is Toyota. The thing that is fascinating about this is how Toyota came up with the Prius, which actually disrupted the market in a manner that most people expect to see from Capital “I” innovators–or the kind of market disruption that you typically get from silicon valley startup companies like Tesla Motors, Better Place, and other such companies.

If you look at nature, it’s almost infinitely inventive–and it uses energy (pretty much solar energy other than those wierd geothermal vent worms) and converts it into structures of many many types. Nice job evolution.

But if you really look at what’s happening in evolution, yes there are quantum leaps such as the first organism to fly (which they say might have been archaeopteryx) or the first animal to crawl up onto land and breathe air… but the interesting thing about them is that the environment was not being kind to these animals as they underwent their transformations. The environment was being cruel to them, squeezing them. They innovated because they had to. Neccesity is the mother of invention. Using fewer chips means you can manufacture at volume. Breathing air means you can get out of the shrinking pond. Flying means you wont be eaten by the savage predators.

Sounds like a bit of a grim view of it, but when people talk about “evolutionary steps” they really are missing a point, they think evolutionary is incremental to the point where you dont even ever get a great leap forward–but you do! There is a point at which lowercase innovation becomes capital letter innovation! This would explain how something as simple as Continuous Process Innovation at Toyota would end up generating a completely disruptive product such as the Toyota Prius (I drive a prius and love it, thank you very much).

So I learned a lot from talking to and listening to Steve Wozniak, and owe a debt of gratitude to him for such deep insights. Hopefully i’m not doing anything bad by sharing his picture with you here on my blog, I’m just happy to have done so…

My 2 cents,

PS, the person taking the picture is my boss, Dr. Peter Kuerpick who runs R&D at Software AG, and the person off to Steve Wozniak’s right is Karl-Heinz Streibich, the CEO of Software AG. Pictured in the background of the picture is Ivo Totev Chief Marketing Office who was nice enough to invite me to this breakfast…

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Japanese technology leadership: a view from Silicon Valley

After speaking at the Business Innovation Forum in Japan, I did some thinking about the unique form of technology leadership found in Japan.

Japan has been going through some tough times economically… but it’s important to reflect on the unique strengths of Japan with respect to the digital age and the emerging global network culture. If you study the “hits” that have come from Japan from a Silicon Valley perspective.

One of the biggest “hits” from Japan lately is the Nintendo “Wii” console. I’ve been playing with the Wii Fit balance board this weekend and find that it’s quite an amazing extension of the immersive technology first seen in the Wii console. This goes beyond the kind of early-90’s “virtual reality” goggles immersion and gets closer to haptic and cybernetic interface that maps to an understanding of kinesthetics. How can kinesthetics impact the human/technology interface? Yoga is a “technology” that has been developed in Asia for at least 5000 years. Yoga explores the connection between the body and mind–so what can computer add to this? The Wii Fit console provides instruction, guidance and tracking of goals that stretch from weeks to months to years–a personalized experience of your own body. The quality of the yoga instruction isnt comparable to, say, but this is for beginners working on basics.

What’s uniquely japanese about the Nintendo Wii? A great many things, including the connection to the fantasy universe of Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto. But the distinguishing feature that I think is both exportable worldwide and deeply japanese is the harmony between human nature and the machine world.

One of the roots of Western thought is the philosophy of Descartes, whose philosophy proposed a separation between the mind and the body (mind-body dualism). Another separation that is fundamental in western thought as documented in the Old Testament is the position of humans as distinct from animals–made in God’s image and assigned to rule over the animals of the earth. The philosophy that illuminates Japanese theology is Shinto, which is animistic–in which spirit occupies humans and nature in equal measure. Now I’m only highlighting these differences because I believe the combination of the human and the natural is reflected in the Japanese approach to technology.

Japan has leadership in climate modeling supercomputers. The robot dog, Aibo was born and bred in Japan. The Toyota Prius, the worlds most popular hybrid car. The ability to blend the technological, the natural and yes, the spiritual aspects of human experience is part of Japanese technology leadership.

One aspect of Japanese technology that is hard to export is the social aspect. Whether it’s the famous shinkansen high speed rail system or the iMode cell phone ecosystem–it’s hard to separate technology adoption from technology invention.

The ability to blend the world of technology with the world of nature gives me confidence that SOA Governance will take root in Japan… The ability to combine an understanding of human nature, tribalism, organizational behavior and advanced technology will be a key driver in the adoption of these technologies in Japan.

My 2 cents,

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