Monthly Archives: May 2008

Congratulations to Shez Rawsthorne-Houghton newly appointed CTO for Sun’s Global Services Practice

The title of the post says it all: here’s all the very best to Shez Rawsthorne-Houghton who’s recently been appointed CTO for Sun’s Global Services Practice. …..

Dr. James Martin’s ‘Target Earth’, the 2008 Turing Lecture

I promised a couple of months ago to do a review of the 2008 Turing Lecture, but I’ve changed my mind, and here’s why…

Basically I enjoyed it so much I think you should see it yourself, here’s the link from the site, so go to it.

2008 with James Martin

Target Earth: The IET/BCS Turing Lecture

James Martin

Speaker: James Martin, Savoy Place, London, UK

2008-02-19 12:00:00.0 IT Channel

>> go to webcast

The Lecture was done by Dr. James Martin, the “RAD father”[1], or at least the father of RAD (Rapid Application Development).

Dr. Martin reminds me of another hero of mine, E. Gary Gygax (who sadly passed away recently), the father of the RPG, without whom we wouldn’t have MMORPGs as we know them today. Of course without James Martin, and his work developing RAD, it’s likely we wouldn’t have it’s progeny, like RUP, DSDM, XP, SCRUM, or any of the other myriad of agile, re-iterative and rapid approaches to development (certainly not in the form we see them now anyway).

The tweleve mega-problems

James went on to speak about the twelve mega-problems facing us today:

  • Climate Change
  • Population Growth
  • Water / Soil / Farm Shortage
  • Oceans Destroyed (polluted)
  • Failed Nations
  • Mass Famine
  • Automated Global Triage
  • Religious Extremism
  • Failed Nations
  • Terrorism with Atomic Weapons
  • War Ending Civilization
  • Existential Risks

A major issue with the mega-problems, James mentioned, is that they will combine to make a crescendo of disaster.

I really enjoyed the lecture, and although I’m not going to go into it deeply (cause I think you should watch it), I did catch the following notes, which must have interested me at the time.

Growth in China

Growth in China is such that they are building a new power station every week and a new city (of 2 million plus inhabitants) per month. I find this staggering, China’s economic value and growth is incredibly impressive and constantly amazes me.

The Singularity and the Law of Accelerating Returns

James spoke about a number of the predictions in Ray Kurzweil’s major work on futurology: ‘The Singularity is Near‘.

Like many people I’d already been turned onto the idea of ‘The Singularity’, but James positioned Kurzweil’s ‘Law of Accelerating Returns‘ as a significant influence on our combined ability to respond to the ‘mega-problems’.

The basic premise of this law is “an increase in the rate of technological (and sometimes social and cultural) progress throughout history, which may suggest faster and more profound change in the future”.

This first slide shows a correlation of fifteen preeminent lists of innovation, disruptive change and paradigm shift throughout history, that suggest an exponential trend.

Ray uses this as a primary source of data for the aforementioned law.

In Kurzweil’s 2001 essay ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’ Ray extends Moore’s law to describe an exponential growth of technological progress.

He describes this as one of the reasons behind the Law of Accelerating Returns.

Many thanks to Ray Kurzweil and his organisation, Kurzweil Technologies, Inc., for the permission to reproduce these slides under a Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 license.

Understanding and Communicating the ‘Big Picture’

Another point James made was that to have any chance of resolving the mega-problems above it “needs”…”everybody (to) get the big picture”.

Of course “getting the big picture means everyone pulls together !” and that’s the real reason that vision statements and goals really do need to be clear and understandable, so everyone involved understands how their contribution ends up helping to make a difference.

Frankly I find the number of businesses that understand this is phenomenally low. I genuinely think it’s a big reason behind corporate inertia as company employees ‘churn’ around over what the ‘real’ goals of their organisation are.

A major reason that we all need to “get” the “Big Picture” is that our Politicians views reflect those of their voters and constituents, and until resolving these issues becomes important to us, our Politicians won’t really reflect them in their policies.

James Lovelock

James also name checks James Lovelock, another of my heroes and one of my favorite scientists, particularly for his work on Gaia Theory and the related ‘Daisyworld‘ virtual world simulation that suggests bio-diversity is a key component of the mechinism of the eco-system maintaining a habitable environment.

He is probably most well known for his work inventing the electron capture detector (1956) which led to the discovery of the ubiquitous distribution of pesticide residues (initially DDT) and pollutants (Lovelock was the first to detect the widespread presence of CFCs in the atmosphere) in the natural environment and can be said, along with Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring, to have started the environmental movement.

Jeffrey Sachs

Dr. Martin also name checks Jeffrey Sachs, and his book ‘The End of Poverty‘. Despite some negativity to Sachs methods online I still aim to get a copy soon.


Something I hadn’t heard of before, in regards to ‘Failed Nations’ was “Kleptocracy”: where a Government steals from it’s own people, a number of African Governments were given as example.


So I definitely enjoyed the lecture, thought provoking and extremely relevant, and I’m already looking forward to next years event, I wonder who the IET and BCS will get to present for 2009.

Previous IET / BCS Turing Lectures

Here’s links (and synopses) to the last four years Turing Lectures, all of which have been recorded by the IET for your viewing pleasure. Well worth a couple of hours of your time rather than being exposed to the latest ‘Internet Meme’…

2007 with Grady Booch

9th Annual Turing Lecture

Grady Booch, IBM

The Promise The Limits and the Beauty of Software Lecturer: Grady Booch, IBM

2007-01-25 12:00:00.0 IT Channel

>> go to webcast

2006 with Chris Mairs

Lifestyle access for the disabled

Dr. Chris Mairs

The BCS/IEE Turing Lecture 2006 Speaker: Dr Chris Mairs, Data Connection plc

2006-01-26 12:00:00.0 Control & Automation Channel

>> go to webcast

2005 with Fred Brooks

7th Annual Turing Lecture

Professor Frederick P Brooks

Collaboration and Telecollaboration in Design Lecturer: Professor Frederick P Brooks, Jr., FREng, Dist. FBCS

2005-01-20 12:00:00.0 IT Channel

>> go to webcast

2004 with Fred Piper

Cyberworld security – the good, the bad and the ugly (2004 Turing Lecture)

Professor Fred Piper

This lecture looks at some of the technical security mechanisms used for protecting our infrastructure by providing confidentiality for information; entity authentication over distributed computer networks and the detection of alteration to information. It discusses some of the social and political problems that can result from their use and from the fact that the same technology can be used by law enforcers (to catch criminals) and law breakers (to avoid being caught), as well as by businesses (to protect their assets) and by individuals (to protect privacy and preserve confidential data).

2004-01-21 12:00:00.0 Communications Channel

>> go to webcast


  1. If Paul Weller can be called the “Mod father[2], I don’t see why I can’t re-appropriate the term in a computing context.
  2. Actually shouldn’t that be Steve Mariott ? Surely Mr. Weller only qualifies as the Punk Rock / Mod Revival cross-over father ? Or does that not trip as lightly off the tongue…

My haiku

My haiku

Washed up

Love you

Back soon

Sent via text from the 6.10 am train to London whilst rushing off to work last week, I thought it was kind of cute, can’t say Donna agreed though… not particularly sure it counts as a haiku either, c’est la vie…

New Glasses

Finally my new glasses have arrived. I say finally, but that really not fair, they only took a week.

I’ve been having more headaches lately, and increasingly painful ones, and it was pretty obvious that it was my eye sight letting me down.

It’s been at least fifteen years since my last pair, and they had held out for a fair while, but I could tell my sight had been degrading.

Worse than I thought though, I’ve been told I need these for anything that takes concentration, including watching the TV and driving.

Just getting used to them, it’s nice not to be so close to the screen again to be able to see what’s on it.

Oh no, not another redesign…

A number of reasons drove me to redesign the site, in part due to frustration with the existing one and inspiration to try something different.

My main frustrations were due to the fact I was posting a wide range of material whose messages I felt were getting mixed up.

One of the criticism’s people had of my blog was that it jumped around between high (detailed overviews of UK Gov. G2G sysetms) and low brow (going for a walk) too quickly. It had been my original intent to go with this, and that’s why the blog was originally called ‘eclectic’, but I’ve found it’s a little too jarring for people to handle, and I suspect was turning them off. By getting them to choose between different categories I’m hoping that they’ll pick up on that ‘channel’ and become familiar with it before trying the others. I think of this issue as one of signal to noise, however I suppose different readers signal is another’s readers noise.

Most people who have been through this learning curve move to multiple blogs, but I wanted an aggregated page, plus I had fun overloading some of the Roller macros to allow category specific functionality.

My frustration is that I’m sick to the gills of Facebook and the ilk, they are all just so much lock in to closed systems. Frankly I want all of these social applications to integrate. Now. For instance rather than have LinkedIn, Namyz, Xing, etc. keeping records of my professional contacts I just want a blended service where all my professional contacts are visible to me in a single data set, even if they are actually separate and multiple data sources (and wherever the data might actually be).

And I don’t want this applications to be shunting my data around in a haphazard manner, I’d rather just be able to view the information as a unified stream.

Just because the big three of MySpace, Facebook and Google have said that they will ‘play nice’ they are all, to a man, going to be ring fencing their user populations. They will attempt this with guile initially, then with ‘attractive’ *new* features, and finally with strong arm tactics. Eventually they will lose out, because if it’s not open, how ‘social’ is it really.

I’d started to feel that what was needed was a non-Facebook Facebook profile page, and once I’d seen Cal Henderson’s ‘iamcal‘ it all started to fall into place. Cal’s page was a real source of inspiration, and I hope that if he sees my current design that he likes it.

What I’m effectively going for is ‘Radical Transparency‘, mainly as put forward by Clive Thompson’s Wired article “The see through CEO“, and by Chris Anderson’s blog ‘The Long Tail‘ (in fact check out this recent article “You may be on Facebook, but the money’s in the Long Tail“).

Last week I was coming back from London on the late train from Euston and bumped into Chris Loughran from Deloitte, who was also doing the London to Birmingham trek. I was really pleased when, after showing him the new design, he immediately said ‘Radical Transparency’, because I knew I had ‘hit the nail on the head’ as it was obvious to him what I was trying to achieve.

You can see what I mean if you have a look at my new front page over at:

You should be able to see that I’ve collated recent blog entries, by ‘Category’, over on the left hand side (each of the Categories loads a different look and feel, which I’m hoping won’t be too disturbing for the readers, but will keep the separate nature of the contents in mind).

The centre is taken over by a tag graph combo, along with stuff I’m doing (including books I’m reading, music, films, all via All Consuming, sms via Twitter, online ‘radio’ via, and a photo stream from Flickr).

Over on the right are some contact details, about the site, upcoming talks and presentations, and other pages accessable via the site.

The last section is a rss feed of the last blog post of my four favorite blogs, those of Alan Mather, Bill Vass, Mick Farren, and Tim Caynes.

I hope you like the new design, it appears to be popular, in that I’m converting more hits to page reads and multiple pages too.

There are a couple of things to complete, such as tidying up some of the code, finish re-implementing the multi-locale aspects of the site (although I doubt I’ll post machine translated blog posts again anytime soon), and finishing off a sitemap.