Keynote by Mark Burgess

Brains, Society, and Semantic Spaces: the future of IT

Keynote of Incontro DevOps Italia 2016

It’s in the papers! The world is talking about smart phones, smart cars, smart buildings, smart cities. What is smart? Isn’t it only people and their actions that can be smart?

Meanwhile, in technology, we are talking about software defined everything: a new generation of infrastructure that is more plastic and adaptable, like the Amazon cloud where machines come and go transparently, and it `just works’. We tend to think that it is the infusion of programmability into all the things that makes them smart solutions, because we want to have our hands in the machine. Perhaps smart means `application centric’? How do we reconcile the role of passive infrastructure to enable smart behaviour?

The brains that make all this happen are hidden from view. But, are these infrastructures themselves smart, or merely controlled by smart users? In DevOps, we try to reconcile human development processes with mechanical deployment processes. Is this smart?

For many practitioners, these are dumb questions: the goal is just to make something work; but, for town planners, building designers and software architects, these are questions we need to be asking. In this note, I want to compare what we mean by `smart’ with the technologies and processes that matter to us, now and in the future. We might need to rethink what we believe smart is. If smart is simple and generic, can we engineer it into everything? What would that mean? Could we live in a truly smart world?

Read more