Digital Future Planning

12 Jul

The digital age gets a little older every billionth of a second.  Do you know when the digital age started?

Here are some possible dates….

  • Decemeber 23, 1947
  • July 1948
  • Feb 14, 1946

Was it the invention of the Transistor in December 23, 1947 by William Shockley, Walter Brattain and John Bardeen developing an amplification technology for telephone calls?

Or was it the research paper written by Clause Shannon at Bell Labs in July of 1948 on the “Mathematical Theory of Communication”?

Maybe it was the the ENIAC Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator developed from 1943 and announced February 14, 1946?

The birth date may not be definitive but clearly can be traced to these events in the late 1940’s and the result of the need for more computational power due to advances in Science and Nuclear Weapons Technology.  The need for technology in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s was driven from cold war fears and strategic advantage.  (remember that none of this research was funded to give us smart phones, computer games or the Internet; they are the unintended consequence and unplanned results)

Have you ever wondered when the digital age will end or what will replace it?  If we don’t start planning it may be sooner than we think!

History defines the Epoch Ages as follows:

  • Pre-history (0-3000 bc)
  • Ancient History  (3000 bc – 200 ad)
  • Post Classical History (200 ad – 1500 ad)
  • Modern History (1500 ad – 1800 ad)
  • Machine Age (1880-1945)
  • Atomic Age ( after 1945)
  • Post Modern Age (1973-present)
    • Information Age (1973 – present)

The premise of this article is that the Digital Age is not likely to end any time soon.  The use of digital technology has become pervasive in every persons life. Now that we are 70 years into the epoch we need to start planning how we want to use technology in the Post Modern digital age.

The drivers of the digital age were never to deliver information on demand in the palm of your hand.  The drivers of the digital age were to ensure intelligence and reliable global communications, ability to build and accurately control weapon systems, and more and more to track and eliminate potential threats.  The escalation in the intelligence and tracking in the digital age have lead to more cyber-terrorism and “Big Brother” type sovereign governments.  It can easily be argued that we have created technology that can and has been used against those that have created it.  (Examples: stux-net in the wild; encryption battles, cyber terrorism; identity theft; ransomware etc)  The progression of this could be more disastrous than we imagine if we don’t start to look at the real problem.

It’s all about the information.

We seem to be driven to have accurate, reliable, trustworthy, timely and detailed information.

The first analog video signals carried 640 x 480 pixels of resolution.  Today we can purchase and watch programs recorded in 4000 x 2000 pixels of resolution.  That is a 26 times increase in the amount of information in a single frame of video.  Frame rates have gone from 16 frames per second in the Silent Film era to 300 frames per second with high-speed digital video.  This is almost a 20 times increase.  Together they represent an incredible amount of information in a relatively short period of time.  When analog video was first introduced we did not have recording technology to retain and playback what was broadcast.  In order to accommodate the increased amount of information required a breakthrough in recording technology.  Traditionally to record more information the size of the tape or speed of the tape would be increased.  To record video signals the size of reel of tape would be enormous and travel an incredible speed.  It was unmanageable and would required enormous space to store tapes. The solution was to “reverse the telescope” and find a way to make the recording / playback head spin very fast, wrap the tape around the head and engineer a solution that revolutionized the television industry.

Information needs have driven technology at an incredible pace.  It is not linear but follows an exponential growth curve.  Meaning that it is growing at a compound rate.  The conversion from analog to digital has been a big part of the growth curve.  As more and more data has been converted from analog to digital more storage, processing power and bandwidth have been added.  We are currently working in Petabytes of storage, on Gigabit networks with multi-core processors that run at 10’s of Gigahertz.   We are nearing limits of this technology and completely new technologies are being sought.  It is time to step back for a millisecond and see if that is the right direction to take.  It is possible that part of the problem we have is “information overload” and mis-management.

Rather than continuing on the same technology path it is possible to “reverse the telescope” again and take a fresh look at the problem.  It is possible to put information in accurate, secure, reliable and trustworthy storage containers in a transactional format and reduce our need for redundant power, processing, storage, memory and the associated security that is needed.  One of the technologies developed for the information age was the database.  Databases come in many different type.  Hierarchical, Relational, b-tree, etc….  They all have one common problem.  They are collections of information that are designed to manage one type of data for a large collection of things.  We need an information management technology that is designed for any type of data for a single collection. One database per person is another way to look at this.  That way we only need to keep “one” copy of each person’s information. (we need multiple copies for availability / redundancy due to murphy’s laws)

This may not sound right   (Just like the way things look when you reverse the telescope.) but  using a new type of information management technology actually solves a lot of problems.  By separating programming from the data by using this model data is no longer required to be copied for each different use. (for example you medical data and financial information can be stored in one place and used securely by different programs)  A transactional model can give us more accurate real-time information rather than the batch processing models we use today.  We can provide better security by having the data in a centralized security model.  There are many ways to do this.  This model will discourage hacking of personal data and almost eliminates identity theft.  It also allows for the enablement of our constitutional protections of our personal property.

For example, Apple and the FBI are dancing around the subject of digital property rights. Your digital property rights are not well defined and we have identified these as a core part of any digital future.

That future requires all parties in any legal process to be properly authenticated.  It also requires that any legal document be authenticated and partially automated as well.  All of this authentication and infrastructure needs to be accessible via public networks and requires strong encryption and non-repudiation (strict logging and audit-ability).

It requires digital storage devices to be able to be placed into a read-only forensic mode so that tampering is not possible at the beginning of a legal process.  That requires additional firmware and safeguards be put into place on most of our IoT, phones, computers, laptops, pads, disks, clouds, etc……

Any digital device should be able to be accessed in a legal process with the correct set of legal steps.  Most can be read today without any effort.  Some require a little effort.  Others require brute force and there are probably a few that may not be able to be “opened”.

This requires a cooperation between a large group of people.  It requires a new way to think about how we manage information.  (We are not doing it correctly today.)

PeaComputing, L.L.C. is aware of the problem and has a solution.  The solution is not an app and cannot be added to your device.  It requires forethought, planning and a significant realization that due process can be automated and followed in all things digital.  It should be a crime to remove or attempt to circumvent any system that is used to protect information by any individual including law enforcement with the proper execution of the legal steps.

We know we want to be secure in our homes, in our country and with our information.  We should not have to give up any of our protections or rights granted in our Constitution.  Our Government should be working to improve those protections as a core part of their charter.  We should follow the laws and work to make those laws work in a digital world.