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David B. Black
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The principles underlying computer automation are clear and strong. They account for most of the automation we see. They tell us clearly what will happen, why it will happen, and what the benefits will be. What the principles do NOT tell us is who will first apply automation to what process in what sector. Understanding the principles lets you predict the rough order of the sequence of automation. The principles are extremely simple. Perhaps that's why they're rarely stated and appear not to be taught in schools or understood by practitioners. So much the better for people who want to... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Black Liszt
The few people who are familiar with the term "luddite" think that a luddite is an unfortunate but stupid person who fights against advancements that make things better, while clinging bitterly to their crappy, low-end jobs. "Luddites" in this common view, are uneducated, progress-preventing people who need to be moved to the side so that society can be improved. The reality is that, in most cases, luddites were highly skilled craftsmen performing difficult and challenging jobs. It's not that much different today. Luddites are often highly educated professionals and managers who are convinced they bring value to their complex jobs... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2020 at The Black Liszt
While the success patterns laid out in the prior posts in this series may seem clear in the abstract, applying them in practice can be hard, because nearly everyone who thinks or talks about AI (these sets over overlap very little, sadly) takes a different approach. I previously discussed the application of the principles to healthcare, with specific examples: I've discussed the application of the principles to fintech, with a focus on anti-fraud: In this post, I'll show how things can play out with a stellar example in fintech chatbots. Computers talking with People --... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2019 at The Black Liszt
While the success patterns laid out in the prior posts in this series may seem clear in the abstract, applying them in practice can be hard, because nearly everyone who thinks or talks about AI (these sets over overlap very little, sadly) takes a different approach. I previously discussed the application of the principles to healthcare, with specific examples: In this post, I'll show how things can play out with a stellar example in fintech anti-fraud. The Use of ML in Fraud Detection Credit card fraud is a difficult, ever-evolving problem, not unlike cyber-security in general.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2019 at The Black Liszt
As with most computer software issues, cybersecurity is badly misunderstood by the vast majority of people, including, sadly but as usual, most computer professionals. The result of this is that the vast majority of people have wrong ideas about the source and methods of security breaches and how they can be prevented. Unfortunately, sometimes these wrong ideas have major consequences. A Typical Phishing Attack Phishing is a kind of attack on a user by a bad guy. The bad guy sends the target an email that contains something to tempt the target to click on it. Clicking on the hyperlink... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2019 at The Black Liszt
The 2019 US edition of Money 20/20 is a wrap. All of us who attended are recovering – and digesting. Money 20/20 is now an established event – even though the first one was just seven years ago, in 2012! You might think it would be getting stodgy and repetitive by now, with bosses sending their underlings. Not so! Among the over 7,000 people attending were an amazing number of top, big-company executives – along with hundreds of startups, investors, and companies ranging from emerging to established. All the tech firms you’d expect also attended. So what happened? Anything new?... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2019 at The Black Liszt
“Everyone” says that Facebook’s Libra is a cryptocurrency. Long before Libra had been imagined, Bitcoin pioneered and established the brand new world of cryptocurrency. Bitcoin created the category, and has always been its leading exemplar. The white paper by the still-unknown Bitcoin creator and inventor spelled out his design goals and the main aspects of Bitcoin that supported those goals. Once you read and understand what cryptocurrency is, it becomes very clear that, whatever Libra may be, it is NOT a cryptocurrency. To claim that it’s a cryptocurrency is like claiming that a locked desk drawer is a bank vault... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2019 at The Black Liszt
To call what is taught in the “computer science” departments of universities a “science” is a mind-game to get everyone involved to believe that what is taught meets the normal criteria for being a “science.” It doesn’t come close. Well, you might say, some of those departments are more humbly and accurately called “computer engineering.” True. At some point in the distant future, what is taught in computer engineering might rise to the level of what is taught in, say mechanical or electrical engineering. Until that goal is in sight, it would be more accurate to call the classes something... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Both Microsoft and Intel are big supporters of blockchain. They think it's going to be "bigger than the internet," contributing trillions of dollars to the economy before long. At the same time, they spell out the overwhelming obstacles blockchain must overcome to reach this pinnacle of achievement. Guess what, surprise surprise, the special version of blockchain created by Intel and Microsoft is indispensable to solving the problems and achieving success! You can see their deep thinking here and here. Before diving in, I'd like to point out that the custom, private blockchain they advocate is a contradiction in terms, as... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2019 at The Black Liszt
I’ve been involved in a large number of pioneering software efforts, and I’ve lived through many tech fashion seasons. It’s very clear that the vast majority of experienced software professionals and managers would rather follow current technology fashion than actually making things better. Because of the pathetic state of software knowledge and analytics, not only do they get away with throwing away truly massive gains for their organization, no one in power has a clue what they’ve done! This happens over and over and over and over again. A few people may know there’s a vastly better approach available –... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2019 at The Black Liszt
I promise I didn't plan it this way, but when I looked on Amazon for a product to help me deal with an infestation of bugs, I encountered a major ... yes, bug. I described the bug in detail here, and at the time thought it might be isolated -- after all, in my all-too-extensive use of Amazon, I had never before encountered such a bug. Not long after, as the issue continued to "bug" me, I went onto Amazon again, and found more interesting bugs. This could be just some scamming or corruption. I'm taking the trouble to describe... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2019 at The Black Liszt
I have found ample reason to mock the golden-glowed tech reputations of most of the tech giants, in addition to the supposed tech prowess of organizations such as the NSA. There is good reason to believe that old-style libraries are more secure. I recently stumbled upon a rather glaring bug or result of hacking at Amazon -- and found that Amazon provides no way I could find to report the problem. The problem was glaring and amusing -- a whole set of over 3,000 reviews of a book attached to a pest repelling product. As I'll describe in a future... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Computers are so exact and numbers-based that we tend to think of the people in charge of them as white-jacketed scientists with esoteric knowledge driving towards calculated optimal results, much the same way we imagine that the scientists and engineers calculated the path of the Apollo capsule to the Moon. If the Apollo program were run the way most computer projects are, it would have been a miracle if the capsule made it off the launch pad, much less traced an incredibly exact path from Cape Canaveral to the chosen landing spot on the Moon, a journey of over a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Since when is “data entry” (entering data into a computer) a pivotal, innovative technology? When the difference between doing it the normal way and doing it with advanced technologies is a …ten-to-one productivity difference … that’s when. I’ve described how the Operations Research algorithm of Linear Programming is fifty years into an agonizingly slow roll-out through different applications, from scheduling oil refineries in the 1960’s to scheduling retail sales in the 1990’s, and now scheduling medical infusion centers and operating rooms in the late 2010’s. In each case, laborious and error-prone human scheduling was replaced by the algorithm, with improvements... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Facebook is working hard on building a brand-new cryptocurrency system called Libra, sort of like Bitcoin and Ethereum, except it will be much better, at least according to Facebook. With all the talk about Libra, cryptocurrency, regulation and the rest, no one seems to wonder about what existing solutions normal people will be using to solve the problems for which Libra is suited. This isn’t strange at all actually – in all you’ve read about Facebook’s Libra, how much have you read about the pressing problems it will solve, the unmet needs it will address – right? Mostly what you... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There are patterns in software evolution. Because almost no one studies software history, and even fewer study software evolution, these patterns are almost never discussed. The patterns are amazing. In some cases, you can be pretty sure that a trend that “everyone” says is going to be the future will fizzle out. In other cases, you can predict with a high degree of certainly that software of a certain definite kind and description will be built – even though it hasn’t been built yet – it hasn’t been built anywhere by anyone, but nonetheless you know it will be built.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Value-creating innovations are rarely the result of a bright new A-HA moment, though an individual may have that experience. A shocking number of innovations are completely predictable, partly because they've already been implemented -- but put back in the vast reservoir of ready-to-use innovations, or implemented in some other domain. This fact is one of the most important patterns of software evolution. Sometimes the innovation is created, proven and fully deployed in production, like the optimization method Linear Programming, which I describe here. In other cases, like this one, the innovation is built as a functioning prototype with the cooperation... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Practically no one understands software, so why should we expect anyone to understand the broader and in some ways more demanding subject of software evolution? But while rarely (as in, almost never) studied, thoughts about software evolution are often found lurking in the backs of people's minds, and pop out in the things they write. In biological evolution, putting aside nasty things like DNA and all the stuff it can and can't explain, there is a now-obvious pattern in the fossil record of how species have evolved. There is a clear progression from simple to complex, less capable to more... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There is loads of talk about “innovation.” Lots of people want to do it, lots of people think they’re doing it, consultants run courses in how to be innovative, and large organizations claim to promote innovation and be innovative. The assumption behind most of this “innovation” talk is that a wonderful bright idea that will change the world (or at least your organization or startup) can pop into anyone’s head. It’s new! It’s brilliant! We’re going to win big with this great new idea! See this for example. When you study software evolution, you get an entirely different picture of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There is a general impression that software innovation in one of its many forms e.g. “Digital Transformation” is marching ahead full steam. There are courses, consultants, posters hanging in common spaces and newly-created Chief Innovation Officer positions. What’s new? What’s the latest in software? The reality is that there are large reservoirs of proven, tested and working software innovations ready to be rolled out, but these riches are kept behind the solid walls of dams, with armies of alert guardians ready to leap in and patch any holes through which these valuable innovations may start leaking into practice. Almost no... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2019 at The Black Liszt
Facebook’s Libra faces the daunting task of pulling off the flawless world-wide launch sometime next year of a new cryptocurrency based on new code. In taking on this task, they are hoping to pull off a first in software history: a major body of new code that works out of the gate. I assess the odds of this working here. At the same time, they have upped the stakes by also introducing a brand-new smart contract framework based on a brand-new language. Good luck! Smart contracts are a way of extending and customizing a blockchain. Outsiders might imagine that the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There is a great deal of buzz about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency Libra. There is even a trickle of technical information about it surfacing. No one seems to be talking about the deep-seated technical reasons the new system will crash and burn. Sadly for Libra, there isn’t just one such fatal flaw! Here I’ll describe one of them. The core reasons that FB’s Libra will fail are: it’s a large body of new code new code is always riddled with bugs, no matter how hard the developers try Unlike the code big companies like FB are used to, bugs are really... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2019 at The Black Liszt
There is strong interest in the latest developments in software. No one wants to be left behind. At the same time, there is a peculiar (to me) lack of interest in whatever the latest thing grew out of or evolved from. What are the new thing's predecessors? What did that thing grow out of. Have similar things appeared in the past? Are there patterns we can observe here, or are the new software things that explode onto the scene just a meaningless sequence of random events? Are they things that we obsess about while they're here without questioning or wondering... Continue reading
Posted Jun 25, 2019 at The Black Liszt
After many years of fighting against entrenched corporate interests, the FCC finally extended its regulatory authority to the internet, instituting the so-called "net neutrality" rule in 2015. Finally, the internet would remain free and open. Then a new administration came in, with new leadership at the FCC. There was a move to repeal the common-sense principle of "net neutrality!" Why would anyone think that letting giant corporations pick and choose what we can see on the internet was a good idea, making things they didn't like too expensive or simply blocked -- crazy! It's kind of like repealing the laws... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2019 at The Black Liszt