Bray v. Carr: tech revolution, or regurgitation?

The more things change, the more they stay the same? Carr and Bray agree to disagree over technology's impact.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

In a new blogospheric exchange, Nick Carr and Tim Bray are agreeing to disagree. This latest clash of visionaries is over whether the whole Internet paradigm represents something new and revolutionary (Bray), or if it's merely a repeat of the same old pattern we've seen for generations (Carr).

A piece of Nick Carr's response caught my eye, because it cuts to the heart of what Web services and SOA are all about:

"The claims of technological transformation we hear today are the same as the claims of technological transformation we heard a hundred years ago, though some of the more meaningless terms have been reversed. Then, technology was going to free us from the nightmare of "production" and release us into the more perfect world of "consumption." Now, technology is going to free us from the nightmare of "consumption" and release us into the more perfect world of 'production.'"

We are inexorably and inevitably evolving into both creators and consumers of applications

Now agreed, there's been too much ballyhoo, for years, about technological "revolution." But let's not let the vendor hyperbole diminish what really has taken place over the past few decades. Things have changed, dramatically, since the 1980s, when computers were still the exclusive domain of experts in large organizations that had the funds to pay for the latest systems. Now, plenty of people between the ages seven and 97 carry powerful computers around in their briefcases, backpacks, or in their hands.

Though the news may seem bleaker by the day, the world has actually moved forward in many ways, thanks in large part to technology. The answer to any question in the world is but a few keystrokes away. Democratic impulses flourish in many parts of the world, thanks to the openness of the Internet. Business opportunities abound for people long cut off from the economic mainstream.

The industrial revolution was not just the repeat of the same pattern, but, rather, changed the world in profound ways. Likewise, the information revolution is having the same effects. However, no one in the 1800s could have foreseen the rippling effects of the industrial revolution across societies and political systems. Likewise, no one in 2006 can predict where the information revolution is eventually going to take us.

As Tim Bray puts it: "...in the last few years, the phenomenon of millions of people becoming contributors, not just consumers, is a big deal and I don’t think anyone really understands it."

The same goes for application development and creation of technology-based services -- we are inexorably and inevitably evolving into both creators and consumers of applications. Far too many people now understand the power of information technology, and how to leverage it in their daily lives and work. Web services, for one, can be created from any type of machine, and put to use through an ubiquitous network.

We're reaching a level in which many essential applications/services can be assembled, on-demand, by non-techie business types, who understand far more about technology -- and what it can deliver -- than their forebears a couple of decades back. Likewise, the techies of the world understand far more about the business side of things than their forebears. And that's just where SOA is leading us.

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