New Civilization News: What exactly is SMN and how does it connect with other technologies?    
 What exactly is SMN and how does it connect with other technologies?
24 Jul 2007 @ 12:45, by John Ringland

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I have recently begun to take a new approach, not focusing on explanations but instead on concrete demonstrations, instead of producing essays about ideas I'll focus on producing concrete products such as ontologies, software, etc.

I have also been looking into ways to get the message across. I have decided to look into developing SMN and thereby giving the mass consciousness what it wants - this will help to get its attention.

Understanding New Technology

First a quote from an article about XML, B2B and The XML/edi Group...

Gerry Galewski, a philosopher on information technologies, gave a provocative explanation on why it often takes years to truly appreciate the full potential of new technology:

"... when a breakthrough in technology is achieved, it takes us a while as a culture to figure out what we really have. New developments are culturally assimilated often based on what has come before. We can't help but place the new developments within an historical context.

"Here's an example: In 1844 Samuel Morse invented the ability to transmit information coded into electromagnetic pulses. He sent the first message of dot dash dot dot dash from Baltimore to Washington DC, and therefore people called this telegraphy.

"That first message Morse sent was 'What hath God wrought.' Telegraphy became ingrained into the cultural consciousness. It was easy to understand and deploy.

"Fifty years later, Marconi made a technological breakthrough. He broadcast electromagnetic waves through the air. But what did he send? The ability to modulate a signal was well understood. But Marconi sent dot dash dot dot dash. That is what was ingrained into the cultural consciousness of the time. So people called this wonderful new tool, simply "Wireless Telegraphy." Within their frame of reference, they didn't know what they really had. It took another twenty years for Lee Deforest to apply practical knowledge that had been around for decades. Deforest had the Eureka event, and gave us radio.

"Now let's look at how we do business in the 1990s. In the 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s professional managers defined the common business processes that we use to this day. Then computers and networks were developed. And we set out to take advantage of this new technology and automate our processes, and naturally we did that based on a cultural context. Therefore we called this new capability 'Electronic Document Interchange.'

"But the underlying document model driving the process stayed the same. We called it 'Paperless ordering,' or 'Paperless invoicing,' yet the fundamental process flow stayed the same. Even though it enabled entirely different business methods such as 'just in time inventory,' we still had not reached that next fundamental level of understanding. This is now changing. Eureka events have taken place.

"The existence of the Internet has created the ability to re-invent the way that we fundamentally do business to make us all more interconnected, closer in time and space, with less manual work, our processes more timely, and our operations more and more streamlined."

Consider the possibility that computation is a new technology that we have yet to properly appreciate. Just as a wireless telegraph is a primitive interface into a communication space that has so far evolved into a global telecommunications network, so too are contemporary computers just primitive interfaces into a computational space that can evolve  into something totally new.

The basic technology is virtual spaces. Any use of symbol systems creates a virtual space. For example, the string of 5 symbols "apple" represents (or encodes or reifies) the concept 'apple' within a linguistic space by mapping the compound symbol "apple" to the concept 'apple'. This allows me to transmit the string of 5 symbols to you within a linguistic context and you can dereference (or decode) it and hold within your mind the concept 'apple'. The two concepts are unique but share a close similarity (homology) due to the common experiential context in which the concept 'apple' arises.

Therefore a concept (an entity within a mind space) has been encoded within a linguistic code and transmitted via a virtual space to then be decoded into another concept (entity within a mind space). This means that virtual entities can be transmitted and integrated with other entities.

Whilst in the virtual space the signal data is a form within the virtual space and flows through it according to the dynamics of the virtual space. It may be ink on paper flowing through a postal system or pulses of photons that encode data packets that contain binary data that constitute a file in transmission over the internet.

Representation reifies external systems within a virtual space and we thereby populate and define that space.

A clay tablet, stylus and language is a very simple and constrained portal into a virtual space. The ancient Egyptians knew that if one knew the name of something, that gave you power over it. If you can reify something with a virtual space and operate on it or with it within the virtual space this gives power over that something. For example, if you reify "apple" as an item in a stock inventory and properly connect this concept into the business logic this then gives a business the ability to deal in apples.

A clay tablet or a computer is a portal into a virtual space - but they are based on the principles of documents - a modern computer is an advanced clay tablet in that sense - but it is capable of far more.

A computer is a portal into a virtual space and the communication space links virtual spaces together. Software is a portal into more specialised virtual spaces. Peripherals such as screen, mouse, keyboard and GUI form a virtual <--> human space interface. Network communications form virtual <--> virtual space interfaces. Control systems form a virtual <--> machine interface. CPU and memory comprise the transcendent foundation of a virtual space.

A modern computer is more elaborate than a clay tablet but is still essentially a simple and constrained portal into a virtual space. It creates dynamic virtual spaces that accelerate and augment our traditional text/document approach.

These interfaces are limited by being overly bound by interface specific constraints and not taking full advantage of the virtual space. They are therefore more like electronic clay tablets instead of portals into virtual spaces - like having a wireless telegraph instead of a telecommunications network. This is because we have not properly understood the nature of the virtual space.

We imagine the technology based on the type of interface we are using, for example we develop writing technology and literature or computer technology and software engineering but these can be understood more generally as information system technology and information system engineering.

In the terminology of Saussure, the technology defines a new langue and we manifest many paroles.

Or in other words, the technology (langue) defines a type of virtual space within which a set of information structures can be created and manipulated including sub-virtual spaces and networks of virtual spaces. The creative part (parole) is the creation of many particular structures within the virtual space, producing a creative context, an ecosystem of virtual forms, thus populating the virtual space opened up by the technology.

Each virtual space provides some systems and processes whereby sub-virtual spaces can emerge and the structure of virtual spaces can grow. An example of this last phenomenon is a web server that contains blogging software and millions of people build all manner of blogs on it. Each blog and each page is a sub-virtual space.

A brief overview of the whole process is that:
#  Symbolic languages open up virtual spaces (spoken language, writing, numerals, binary, ascii, programming languages),
#  Communications technology links virtual spaces (bureaucracy, printing press, telegraphy, wireless, networks) and
#  Computer technology animates virtual spaces (software applications, databases, clients and servers, virtual realities, online communities).

Before spoken language there was little communal organisation. Before writing there was no mass organisation. Before telecommunications there was no mass media. The virtual space is the context in which culture emerges.

The collective virtual space is the place in which all cultural systems operate. It doesn't matter whether the virtual space is based on spoken words or clay tablets or paper documents or books or radio or television or internet. It is all the same virtual cultural space accessed via different interfaces.

As the nature of the interfaces evolves our access to the virtual space evolves so the cultural context evolves and the culture evolves. The invention of spoken language would have had an enormous impact on human culture, so too the invention of written language, then the printing press, then the telegraph, then wireless, then television, then the computer, then the internet, then Web 2.0 and on and on.

Technologies such as XML and Web 2.0 are signs of the document paradigm beginning to connect with the virtual space paradigm but it can go a lot further.

SystemMatrix is the foundation of a mathematical science of information systems that gives detailed understanding and control over virtual spaces. With SystemMatrix the virtual space paradigm is explicitly implemented and the full potential of the technology can be realised.

Computers can cease to be just fast calculators or document processors and they can become portals into rich and dynamic virtual spaces. They are portals into the cultural space that is a collective virtual space. They are nodes within the cultural network that forms part of the landscape within which human interaction takes place.

It requires a shift in how we think about computers - it is analogous to communications - are we dealing with a wireless telegraph or is it a global telecommunications network. Are they just fast calculators or document processors or are they portals into virtual spaces.

Best Wishes : )
John Ringland

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