Sunday, November 19, 2006

Welcome Message

The first message of a blog is always the most difficult : one does not know where to start. Today I’ll just describe some of my motivations and objectives.
I have become fascinated over the last few years with the topics of emergence, biomimetics (http://www.bath.ac.uk/mech-eng/biomimetics/about.htm), autonomic computing (http://www.research.ibm.com/autonomic/) and artificial life. I look at these topics from a dual perspective : as a sientist and as the CIO of a large organization.

1. Motivations :


The opening of this blog is the result of three converging threads :
  1. OAI : Optimization of Application Integration.
    OAI is the field of optimizing the quality of service in a business process-oriented IT infrastructure. The link with EAI is obvious ... and dated. Today, it would be smarted to talk about an SOA architecture. The problem is the same, though : how does one optimize the quality of service, measured at a business process level, in a real-life information system (i.e., with failures, bursts, and so on).
    I have looked at this problem with my operations's research culture, it is a beautiful problem : rich, complex and very relevant to real life operations.
    You may look at my last published paper on this topic: Self-adaptive middleware: Supporting business process priorities and service level agreements • ArticleAdvanced Engineering Informatics, Volume 19, Issue 3, 1 July 2005, Pages 199-211Caseau, Y
  2. Autonomic Computing.
    I won't start telling with AC is for me in this short message. I wrote quite intensely about it in my book about Enterprise Architecture and Business Processes. I'll post a message with a translation of a short fragment to state my positition. The key point is that I am a believer, from my CIO standpoint: the only way to achive the kind of cost reduction, complexity reduction and improvement of QoS is to let Information Systems become "autonomic".
  3. The reading of the fascinating book "Out of Control" by Kevin Kelly.
    It will take me a number of messages to share all the insightful comments which I have found in this book.
    For instance, these are two my favorite quotes from this book.
    « Investing machines with the ability to adapt on their own, to evolve in their own directions, and grow without human oversight is the next great advance in technology. Giving machines freedom is the only way we can have intelligent control. »
    "The great irony puzzling cognitive scientists is why human consciousness is so unable to think in parallel, despite the fact that the brain runs as a parralel machine. [...] That's why the first computers were programmed in the von Neumann's serial design : because that's how human think. And this, again, is why parallel computers must be evolved rather than designed: because we are simpletons when it comes to thinking in parallel."

It turns out that these three threads are totally related, and the combination is the foundation for the "theory of the live information system" :)

I will illustrate this with a quote from my own new book (coming out in a few months) :

"Information Systems complexity will be mastered once the IS has become alive. This "livelyhood" must be understood according to the meaning that is proposed by Kevin Kelly : "Life is is an emergent property, contingent upon the organization of inanimate parts but not reducible to them" [...] By stating that the ideal IS must not be designed but grown (through emergence), I include information systems in the large family of (truly) complex systems. Kevin's Kelly analyses leads us to think that the "satisfactory behavior" of complex systems (in the case of IS, this would be the quality of service - availability and performance) is precisely an emerging property, at the global system level, and not a feature that would be built at the component level. In that sense, the ideal IS is a "vivisystem" which blends properties that are built intentionally (for instance, through the architecture of the system) and properties that emerge through self-regulation and self-adptation to the environment.


2. Objectives of this Blog

This blog has three main objectives:

  • Act as an "idea workbench" (as for most blogs of the same kind) : improve the depth of my own analysis (though writing) and expose my thoughts to early criticism.
  • Create a network of people (who share similar interests) and bibliographic references.
  • Develop a unified theory of high avalaiblity / high efficiency / highly adaptable information systems with a practical roamap.

This last point about "practicality" is worth a remark. There is a tension between an "Artificial Life Theory" perspective and the "Adaptative Middleware Experimentation" perspective. One may wonder if I see my own thinking as a philosopher's pastime ... or as the resolution of a CIO practical issue. This would require a lengthy debate, I will simply say that I believe that both a "science-fiction" and a "computational experiment" twists are necessary to achieve success.


3. Methods

I plan to use this blog in a way that is similar to my other blog on organizational architecture:

  1. share bibliography : post book reviews and ask for further readings.
  2. share thoughts, once I am ready to formulate them.
  3. share the results of computational experiments. I plan to use computer simulation to explore some the ideas, as I did for the work on OAI.

I decided to write this blog in English, because most of my bibliographic references are written by Americans. The topics that are mentionned here were born in the US and the likelyhood of joining a thought-network with relevant contributors is much higher if I use an intenational language (a litle bit of provocation here :)). However, comments posted in French are welcome !

One may ask if there exists a relationship with my other blog (http://organisationarchitecture.blogspot.com/). The simple answer is negative: there are no links but the common use of simulation tools. At a "far, far level" a company may be seen as a distributed information system, thus a few connections may be drawn in the future.

5 comments:

James McGovern said...

Welcome to the blogosphere. Hopefully you can also bring perspectives on the human aspects of technology...

OlivierSeres said...

Very interesting topics, and good idea to develop them; they're new for me. Long life to your blog !

brunoprexl said...

Hi Yves, a few comments...

1) hurry up ! Just as Prosperity used to be, "IS livelyhood" is now at the corner, thanks to Moore's law. "IS livelyhood" is just 2 or 3 clicks away from becoming a reality, and therefore needs to be deeply thought about before emerging.

2) my only references about "IS livelyhood" will comme from SF : a few books for you, now that your new job should leave you more time for reading a thinking ;-) :
- Frank Herbert : "Destination : Vide" -> where "AI" becomes... God! a must-read !
- Greg Egan (famous "hard-science" SF writer) "La cité des permutants" -> best book I read about artificial life and virtual worlds ; another must-read !
- more "mass market" : Michael Crichton "Prey" -> nanotechs, parallel programming, "ethologic computing"
(tell me if you're interested, I'll drop you a copy of the books)

3) technology is nothing without acceptance (social, corporate, managerial, etc...)... therefore thinking and working on acceptance is as important as thinking and working on technology itself...

Have fun !

Christophe Brasseur said...

Bonjour Yves,

Bravo pour ton nouveau blog. La biologie des systèmes d'information sera à coup sûr un sujet passionnant.
Rapprocher les SI de l'humain devient à mon sens LA priorité.
Et hop, le site est désormais dans mes favoris.
RDV aussi sur : www.datanews.fr

Yves Caseau said...

Thanks for the comments, especially the suggested readings (I am a big fan of Crichton by the way).
I will post, once in a while, summaries of the books that that I read during my investigation.

The point on acceptance is really interesting. I'll post an exchange that I had with a few students who were working on a school paper about "AI & real life". Some of the questions are related to the acceptance, or its opposite: the different worries that an "intelligent" Information System may trigger.

 
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