Jaron Lanier is mostly known for being the guy behind the expression "virtual reality." For its special issue "Big [and Not So Big] Ideas For 2003," CIO Magazine talked with him about a new concept -- at least for me -- phenotropics.
"The thing I'm interested in now is a high-risk, speculative, fundamental new approach to computer science. I call it phenotropics," says the 42-year-old Lanier. By pheno, he means the physical appearance of something, and by tropics, he means interaction. Lanier's idea is to create a new way to tie two pieces of software together. He theorizes that two software objects should contact each other "like two objects in nature," instead of through specific modules or predetermined points of contact.
Lanier believes that phenotropics would allow for the development of bigger systems, perhaps a million times larger than the ones we can build today, because there would be no need to build connections between them.
Jaron Lanier also talks about software diversity to enhance security.
"If we draw rough metaphors to natural viruses, the way they survive is through diversity," he says. An antiviral agent that kills one virus will not kill another. By extension, an attack on one network would not be effective on another running a different species of software. But phenotropics would allow profoundly different systems to work together, thereby providing natural protection through diversity. "There is no security in monolithic networks," says Lanier.
For more details, please read the full article. And buy yourself a copy of CIO Magazine.
Source: Lafe Low, CIO Magazine, January 1, 2003 Issue
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