I continue my explanation of how software has influenced people. This influence continues a process that began with civilization: we became like our technologies – or from their perspective: they become like us. Each influenced the other, until it became difficult to separate the two.
Our fundamental technology, all along, has been the machine. And we have been hard at work at making them better – and inevitably making ourselves more like them, and they more like us. Without any awareness of this at all.
The result has been affluence on a massive scale – but also human degradation on a massive scale. The more we became machines, the less human we became. And we became unable to know the difference. This last change was the worst, and one we may never recover from. In order to become machines, we destroyed our ability to be human.
So far, I have said nothing new. People in the 19th Century (such as Emerson) were aware of this problem, but could do nothing to stop it – because they were unable (or unwilling, perhaps) to notice the arrival of mass man. Which were simply men completely adapted to the march of progress – or actually the march of greed and power – components of a huge social machine.
I repeat: society had become a machine, and one very proud of this – because it enabled them to do great things (all kinds of massive building projects). But it also destroyed their ability to be people, and the modern world ended with two World Wars – which made all previous wars look like nothing.
This is where I came in: a depression baby (1936), the son of parents obsessed with respectability (but unable to be human) in the most powerful nation on earth (at the time). This was bad enough – but they were also unable to understand themselves or their society – and didn’t want to understand. It was full speed into the future, and may the devil take the hindmost!
And for a time, in the Fifties and Sixties, they prospered – their cars got more and more powerful, and their houses got bigger and bigger. But (and I can testify to this personally) they treated their children badly. We were expected to become successful, and successful we became, but we could not become anything else. This was not a good time to be alive – because anyone who was alive (who was not a machine) was destroyed.
I see I have strayed from my subject, and went into a long rant about the way things have beome, instead. But I am unrepentant, I am standing up on my hind legs and making sure the world knows I exist. But let me (finally) get down to the subject: Loosely Coupled Components.
This will require some more history. After WWII, a new technology appeared – at the same time the Atomic Bomb appeared. The two were closely related as the book Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, frankly admits. Both had enormous potential for good or for evil. We were aware of the danger of The Bomb (how could we ignore it?) but not of the computer – that seemed at first to be nothing but an enhanced calculator. Were we wrong! We had created a whale and it was going to swallow us.
I now want to describe that whale. It soon became apparent that computers needed programming – some way of ordering the things around. Otherwise they were useless. This did not bother the man on the street, who was not interested in the things, but it bothered business – who could clearly see its usefulness in helping them become more powerful.
Business became focused on power, and the computers became part of their power complex. A army of specialists appeared to serve them – big, expensive monsters, housed in their own rooms. IBM (International Business Machines) appeared to make and service them (and also sell them: their sales department was extremely effective.)
But let me return to programming the monsters. It soon became clear that this was a critical skill, and it became necessary to create more of these skilled people, and figure out ways of making them more productive.
At the same time semi-conductors were discovered, and ways of building large arrays of them on a silicon chip created Silicon Valley – and the whole industry went crazy. The whole world went crazy – we had discovered a way to create more and more with less and less!
But this required large amounts of something else: intelligence – smart software development. A special kind of intelligence was needed, and naturally these people appeared. At first these were. derisively referred to as nerds: people with poor social skills, but good technical skills. I was one of them.
At first, the young women of the age put us down – but when they discovered how much money we could make, they quickly changed their minds, and became eager for their bodies to share in our income.
Then computer technology made a quantum jump – the personal computer (PC) appeared. These are now so common, we have forgotten what a bombshell they were. I had one of the first ones (the Osborne) which make desktop publishing possible – overnight!
At one point in my life, when I was between jobs (as was often the case), and had time to think, I gave some hard thought to this. Was this going to do me any good?
I came to the conclusion that this new capability (to produce more documentation faster) would simply be absorbed by the corporations we all worked for, with no benefit to us (the technical writers). And indeed, this turned out to be the case. We were back running on the treadmill, sweating more, but making less.
And I noticed, to my amazement, that no one was noticing this. Indeed, no one was noticing much of anything at all. I could only conclude (reluctantly) that my fellow-workers were no longer people. What they were I did not know, but they were not people.
Fast-forward ahead to the present, when I am living in Costa Rica with my high-speed Internet connection. I am studying, once again, for reasons I do not understand, software development. And I am learning about loosely coupled components – and I can hardly believe my eyes. I quote from Pro ASP.NET MVC Framework, page 73:
We want the components of our application to be as independent as possible and to have as few interdependencies as we can manage. In our ideal situation, each component knows nothing about any other component and deals with it only through abstract interfaces. This is known as loose coupling…
Replace the word component with the word person, and you have our present social situation!
I am reminded of my last relationship, back in Silicon Valley. I wanted to know everything about my new girlfriend, and she found this, not endearing, but alarming. I had to stay in my place, and she would stay in hers, thank you! Sex was totally permissible (and the more the better), but intimacy was not.