Recently I felt compelled to re-visit my series of thoughts on the topic of the Progression of Modern Software. This inevitably lead to my realization a fourth thought post was required to continue studying and predicting the next era in software evolution. Along the way I continued to pursue other interests and explore other fields of study I found personally interesting. One particular paper (PDF) published more than a decade ago caught my eye. The paper was discussing the field of biomimetics. I know that sounds bizarre and if you're like me at first you can take a precursory stab at what it means at best. Here's a quick, short definition courtesy of Nature.com:
Biomimetics is an interdisciplinary field in which principles from engineering, chemistry and biology are applied to the synthesis of materials, synthetic systems or machines that have functions that mimic biological processes. - nature.com
Yeah, still didn't totally clear things up for me. So I did some digging and some real thinking (you know what I mean, I didn't only read the words, but I read with purpose and intent). And then an idea began to form. It was really just a wisp of a thought drifting in my peripheral brain; but for some reason it hung there and I saw it. Okay, no more objectification (see second definition). Bottom line: I had a spark of inspiration. Here's what I realized.
Modern Software Evolving
Everyone has heard about and is familiar with artificial intelligence, AI, and the other slightly more tech-y version, machine learning, or ML. This is the stage to which our modern software has progressed, or evolved. And this is an interesting choice of words. Our software evolved. To an extent we can without too much hesitation attribute that term to what occurs as the advanced algorithms constantly improve and change...or if you prefer - adapt. And as these algorithms transform they make some products better than other products and some companies better than other companies and thus as Darwin suggests, the survival of the fittest occurs.
But wait a minute. You've been reading what I've been reading and hopefully thinking about what I am thinking about. And I trust you've come to some of the same conclusions. One exceedingly obvious question rises to the surface: What ever happened with this field of study, biomimetics? Strangely it seems to have fallen by the wayside as ideas and theories are prone to do. Other fields become more popular and more profitable for research grants and private endeavors. And this is when we get excited. As thinkers we realize opportunity when we see it. And this was a massive opportunity. Here's what I was thinking.
Let's engage in some interdisciplinary study. This sounds significantly more impressive than the alternative but is far harder to quickly comprehend. Simple version: Let's put two separate fields of study together and see what happens. It's really quite scientific if you stop to think about it. Recall if you will the scientific process you learned in grade school?
This fairly accurately describes the steps I undertook. Almost immediately I realized I couldn't do this alone and recruited a few others to help me as we began to dig in and do some high-quality, old-school research.
This is the point where the space between paragraphs bears zero correlation to any measurement of chronological events. So when you see this next paragraph please recognize this gap represents months of extensive (and exhaustive) research, studying, listening, exploring and ultimately discovering.
And we discovered something amazing. We realized this interdisciplinary study of nature and artificial intelligence yielded a dynamic, living algorithm capable of adapting and evolving in a natural, organic manner growing constantly stronger and ultimately fitter. I know, questions abound, and perhaps a significant amount of skepticism. I'm glad for these feelings. A person who truly thinks should always approach new knowledge with questions and a healthy dose of doubt. Keep reading.
I realize there's a limit to how much information you can consume in a single sitting and how many new facts can percolate comfortably within the brain. I will be breaking up the results of this intensive study and programming and computational intelligence into a series of separate thoughts to help. We'll seek out and explore some of the different facets we discovered over the course of several weeks until we're ready to put it all together. But I can't just leave things here. I want to give you so much more. I want to share all the thoughts in my head immediately, and now you see the struggle I face with each thought I share. Stopping. Here's the absolute last thing I'll share to get you to ponder until the next thought is ready:
Interdisciplinary study isn't limited to specific fields, nor is this a limited mixing of only two distinct fields. Consider this thought: What can be discovered if we take the resulting output of this study and combine this with our thoughts about our current era in the progression of modern software.
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