Tag Archives: Computing future

Swarm Thickness

Most people following this blog will be familiar with the notion of ‘swarm intelligence’. So here’s a question … Could ‘swarm thickness’ be a thing? (Seriously!)

Swarm Intelligence (SI) shows itself all over the place in nature and discussion goes back at least as far as Darwin. Through SI, birds and fish maintain apparently impossibly coordinated formations, ants find the best path to food and bees and termites build complex structures to name just a few examples.

The essence of SI is a wonderfully simple one. Individuals do the most basic of operations, follow the crudest of directives or instincts but the cumulative effect for the flock, shoal, colony or hive is something magnificently clever.  They’re guided, by something they don’t understand, to play a small part in something good.

You can probably see where we’re going here … Could humans be doing this the other way around?  Could we, guided by something we don’t understand, be playing a small part in something awful?

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The Problem with ‘Futurology’

What’s your favourite terrible technological prediction?  There are plenty to choose from, that’s for sure.  The following is just a brief list of the most infamous computing-based futurology howlers (oldest to newest):

  1. “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”, Thomas Watson: IBM chairman (1943) (* or was it someone else?)
  2. Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons”, Popular Mechanics (1949)
  3. “I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year”, Prentice Hall: Business Books Editor (1957)
  4. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home”, Ken Olsen: DEC founder (1977)
  5. “640K ought to be enough for anybody”, Bill Gates (1981) (* or did he really?)
  6. “We will never make a 32-bit operating system”, Bill Gates (1989)
  7. “Spam will be a thing of the past in two years’ time”, Bill Gates (2004)
  8. “Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput”, Alan Sugar (2005)

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