I'm co-teaching "computer networks" this quarter, with my colleague Anne Rogers. While preparing, I came across the following anecdote about how a "system" must be able to tolerate imperfect behavior:
David (on the show "Curb Your Enthusiasm") was frantically looking for a DVD case, but could not find it.
LD: "I don't know what happened. I have a system. I put the DVD in
the player, and I put the case on top of the player. But now it is
Friend: "That's not a system. A system is - you buy a bunch of empty DVD cases and put them next to the player."
More seriously, I read yesterday a fascinating article by Richard Cook on the causes of errors in complex systems such as hospitals, and the tendency to blame these errors on "operators." Cook notes that:
One of my hometown newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, ran an article "Grid Computing Gaining Acceptance," by their lead technology reporter, Jon Van, on Tuesday. The online version has just one deficiency: it is missing the nice picture of a more youthful me that appeared in the print version (-:
The article emphasizes cycle stealing, which as I have often said, is a nice application for grid, but certainly not the main story. (Systems like caBIG and Earth System Grid, and of course the grid systems being deployed in corporate data centers, will ultimately be far more important.) But cycle stealing is certainly making a big difference, and systems such as World Community Grid (and the many Condor pools around the world) are making real contributions to science.
Are information technology and digital media fundamentally changing the
Humanities? I argue that the changes we are seeing in Humanities
disciplines are not about new technologies, as conventionally
understood. The quantitative expansion of information technology in
contemporary society is precipitating reflection upon some age old
questions in the humanities - the distinctiveness of the human, the
role of science and technology in cultural production, authorship and
creativity, the sharing of knowledge, the conservation of cultural
resources for the future, the character of a community's public sphere,
the propagation of a community's memory. Digital and analog media both
prompt such questions. The questions sometimes historically become more
urgent, but this is not because of technology.