The Computing Revolution

One of the keynotes at this year’s Build conference was on the Future of Tech. This was a mix of live talk and recorded pieces from Kevin Scott, CTO at Microsoft. This talk looks at the innovation of tech, with lots of AI/ML, but also with the idea that data is fundamental to the future. While he notes that there are different eras in computing as we have breakthroughs, one of the fundamental things that will change the world is the data explosion.

We constantly push through boundaries and past constraints that limited us just a few years ago. I can still remember a professor in college bragging about the 32MB of RAM in his Solaris workstation, at a time when many of us had 1,2, or maybe 4MB. I think about that each time I get a new device. In a generation of my life, we’ve grown an order of magnitude, and pushed into a new world where I don’t have an exponential level of computing on my desk, but in my pocket.

We might appreciate or worry about the growth of data, and it’s implications, or we may get excited and embrace it. Either way, big data is coming, and it continues to come to many organizations. While most of us aren’t pushing 10TB+ databases, some of us are, and few of us think in MB anymore. Makes you think that perhaps the default settings in SQL Server for MB in some cases are silly. Surely a MB is a like a penny (or pence in the UK), take one, leave one, but they don’t really count. Not until there are hundreds of them, and even then, maybe only a thousand is worth much mental effort.

I do agree that the big win with the Internet, and with many pieces of software, isn’t the platform, but the ways in which people take advantage of the platform. I think that the creativity of developers, taking advantage of incredible computing on mobile, is what has created an amazing revolution. However, it’s not really just the creative software, but the understanding and use of data at scale that has really enabled software to change the world. Access to lots of data, whether this is people wanting car rides, sharing their thoughts and images, or just the bits that make up the music of the world are the ways in which software can become incredibly popular. Also, this is how things might get incredibly dangerous.

I do think that AI has the chance to become an inflection point in computing, helping to create more applications that will work with humans in new ways that harness our knowledge, ethics, and vision with the computing power that continues to grow in incredible ways.

The keynote is an interesting watch. It’s about 45 minutes, but if you want to dream a bit, it’s worth your time.

Steve Jones

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