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Dizzying but invisible depth
05-10-2015, 08:01 PM #1
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
Jean-Baptiste ”JBQ” Quéru,
https://plus.google.com/+JeanBaptisteQue...fydM2Cnepe



You just went to the Google home page.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit of about how browsers work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play HTTP, HTML, CSS, ECMAscript, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just connected your computer to http://www.google.com.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how networks work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play DNS, TCP, UDP, IP, Wifi, Ethernet, DOCSIS, OC, SONET, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just typed http://www.google.com in the location bar of your browser.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how operating systems work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a kernel, a USB host stack, an input dispatcher, an event handler, a font hinter, a sub-pixel rasterizer, a windowing system, a graphics driver, and more, all of those written in high-level languages that get processed by compilers, linkers, optimizers, interpreters, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just pressed a key on your keyboard.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know about bit about how input peripherals work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a power regulator, a debouncer, an input multiplexer, a USB device stack, a USB hub stack, all of that implemented in a single chip. That chip is built around thinly sliced wafers of highly purified single-crystal silicon ingot, doped with minute quantities of other atoms that are blasted into the crystal structure, interconnected with multiple layers of aluminum or copper, that are deposited according to patterns of high-energy ultraviolet light that are focused to a precision of a fraction of a micron, connected to the outside world via thin gold wires, all inside a packaging made of a dimensionally and thermally stable resin. The doping patterns and the interconnects implement transistors, which are grouped together to create logic gates. In some parts of the chip, logic gates are combined to create arithmetic and bitwise functions, which are combined to create an ALU. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bistable loops, which are lined up into rows, which are combined with selectors to create a register bank. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bus controllers and instruction decoders and microcode to create an execution scheduler. In another part of the chip, they're combined into address and data multiplexers and timing circuitry to create a memory controller. There's even more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Can we simplify further?

In fact, very scarily, no, we can't. We can barely comprehend the complexity of a single chip in a computer keyboard, and yet there's no simpler level. The next step takes us to the software that is used to design the chip's logic, and that software itself has a level of complexity that requires to go back to the top of the loop.

Today's computers are so complex that they can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. In turn the computers used for the design and manufacture are so complex that they themselves can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. You'd have to go through many such loops to get back to a level that could possibly be re-built from scratch.

Once you start to understand how our modern devices work and how they're created, it's impossible to not be dizzy about the depth of everything that's involved, and to not be in awe about the fact that they work at all, when Murphy's law says that they simply shouldn't possibly work.

For non-technologists, this is all a black box. That is a great success of technology: all those layers of complexity are entirely hidden and people can use them without even knowing that they exist at all. That is the reason why many people can find computers so frustrating to use: there are so many things that can possibly go wrong that some of them inevitably will, but the complexity goes so deep that it's impossible for most users to be able to do anything about any error.

That is also why it's so hard for technologists and non-technologists to communicate together: technologists know too much about too many layers and non-technologists know too little about too few layers to be able to establish effective direct communication. The gap is so large that it's not even possible any more to have a single person be an intermediate between those two groups, and that's why e.g. we end up with those convoluted technical support call centers and their multiple tiers. Without such deep support structures, you end up with the frustrating situation that we see when end users have access to a bug database that is directly used by engineers: neither the end users nor the engineers get the information that they need to accomplish their goals.

That is why the mainstream press and the general population has talked so much about Steve Jobs' death and comparatively so little about Dennis Ritchie's: Steve's influence was at a layer that most people could see, while Dennis' was much deeper. On the one hand, I can imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Jobs did and the people he inspired: probably a bit less shiny, a bit more beige, a bit more square. Deep inside, though, our devices would still work the same way and do the same things. On the other hand, I literally can't imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Ritchie did and the people he inspired. By the mid 80s, Ritchie's influence had taken over, and even back then very little remained of the pre-Ritchie world.

Finally, last but not least, that is why our patent system is broken: technology has done such an amazing job at hiding its complexity that the people regulating and running the patent system are barely even aware of the complexity of what they're regulating and running. That's the ultimate bikeshedding: just like the proverbial discussions in the town hall about a nuclear power plant end up being about the paint color for the plant's bike shed, the patent discussions about modern computing systems end up being about screen sizes and icon ordering, because in both cases those are the only aspect that the people involved in the discussion are capable of discussing, even though they are irrelevant to the actual function of the overall system being discussed.

CC:BY 3.0
05-10-2015, 08:38 PM #2
Octo Mother Superior
Posts:43,017 Threads:1,474 Joined:Feb 2011
Wut?

blonde.gif
05-10-2015, 10:11 PM #3
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
I ran into an issue with software patents recently...

This is the sweetest rant about the patent system that you will ever find chuckle.gif
05-11-2015, 02:08 AM #4
Cynicalabsurdance Member
Posts:8,768 Threads:206 Joined:Feb 2011
I just ran into a Rat recently

with a Complex personality disorder and a Rash on his Rat's Ass
the size of Gawd's Dick .

I'd go into further ,,,, but it's incredibly complex .
05-11-2015, 03:39 AM #5
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
Hello Cynicalabsurdance!

Nice to see you again! wave.gif

Ass is probably least complex of all those things, if you want to expand upon that subject. chuckle.gif

Lets see... I don't know shït about it really...
Who had the first ass? Was is something before the dinosaurs - some weird fish in the primordial ooze?
ohnobody Show this Post
05-11-2015, 08:03 AM #6
ohnobody Incognito Anonymous
 
Holy Wall-O-Text Cmdr.
maybe we could simply change the subject to converse on a more even playing field.

PS: you don't have to understand a woman to use one, so let the computer fall into that category.
05-11-2015, 12:17 PM #7
Accidental Stoner Member
Posts:8,927 Threads:71 Joined:Feb 2011
Very interesting, OP.

puffpuffpass.gif
05-11-2015, 02:04 PM #8
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
Ok, I'll make a TLDR,

This guy explains complexity loops in modern system design (not computers). In the last paragraph he debunks the patent system, with logic as follows:

Because of the complexity loops in *everything* nobody knows what they are doing so there is no way in hell that the patent office would know what they are doing. In the end of the day everybody just hopes that they are on the right track.


Whoever gave a patent to the assholes that walked in and said they want to patent the MP3 file format should eat shït and die.
05-11-2015, 02:09 PM #9
Jr nli Incognito Anonymous
 
I can't believe I read that on a cell phone lol
05-11-2015, 02:47 PM #10
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
Very good JR!

You probably know that the average american CEO reads 52 books in a year so nobody should whine about a couple paragraphs chuckle.gif

We are pretty soon about to enter the Knowledge Age where very little or no capital at all is required to get involved in the most interesting stuff that's going on. Knowledge is the most valuable asset in the Knowledge Age. This is a kinda logical follow-up to the Information Age.
05-11-2015, 03:45 PM #11
Accidental Stoner Member
Posts:8,927 Threads:71 Joined:Feb 2011
Nice way of putting it, Cmdr.

Knowledge on all sorts of levels.

Yup, fractals spotted.

Again.

chuckle.gif

doobie.gif
05-11-2015, 04:12 PM #12
Ruby Wolf Member
Posts:10,786 Threads:721 Joined:Oct 2012
Within the void of ancient light that we call outer space...

There exists no backwards and forwards there exists no up and down...

Only eternal holographic endlessness...

failboat Show this Post
05-11-2015, 10:32 PM #13
failboat Incognito Anonymous
 
(05-11-2015, 02:04 PM)CmdrDraco Wrote:  Ok, I'll make a TLDR,

This guy explains complexity loops in modern system design (not computers). In the last paragraph he debunks the patent system, with logic as follows:

Because of the complexity loops in *everything* nobody knows what they are doing so there is no way in hell that the patent office would know what they are doing. In the end of the day everybody just hopes that they are on the right track.


Whoever gave a patent to the assholes that walked in and said they want to patent the MP3 file format should eat shït and die.

why?
05-11-2015, 11:04 PM #14
SpiritMasonChazz Member
Posts:975 Threads:102 Joined:Jun 2014
Adaptation to what is trying to be explained for a complex design, idea or plan can be very difficult to a limited mind of understanding.
The ones in charge may know but make it imposable to create new improvements due to them being on the take or the side of the 1% control.
05-12-2015, 02:09 AM #15
CmdrDraco Member
Posts:94 Threads:10 Joined:May 2015
(05-11-2015, 10:32 PM)failboat Wrote:  
(05-11-2015, 02:04 PM)CmdrDraco Wrote:  Whoever gave a patent to the assholes that walked in and said they want to patent the MP3 file format should eat shït and die.
why?

There was just an issue with a piece of software not being able to compress audio files because of software patents, and MP3-compression is like mid-90's stuff... 20 year old pretty standard technology that should not cause you any problems today.

I'm against all software patents.

Here's some more info:

https://www.eff.org/patent-busting

https://defendinnovation.org/

Every year numerous illegitimate patent applications make their way through the United States patent examination process without adequate review. The problem is particularly acute in the software and Internet fields where the history of prior inventions (often called "prior art") is widely distributed and poorly documented. As a result, we have seen patents asserted on such simple technologies as:

- One-click online shopping (U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411.)
- Online shopping carts (U.S. Patent No. 5,715,314.)
- The hyperlink (U.S. Patent No. 4,873,662.)
- Video streaming (U.S. Patent No. 5,132,992.)
- Internationalizing domain names (U.S. Patent No. 6,182,148.)
- Pop-up windows (U.S. Patent No. 6,389,458.)
- Targeted banner ads (U.S. Patent No. 6,026,368.)
- Paying with a credit card online (U.S. Patent No. 6,289,319.)
- Framed browsing; (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,933,841 & 6,442,574.) and
- Affiliate linking (U.S. Patent No. 6,029,141.)



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