Tuesday, July 7, 2015

How To Scale, 101

Hi! Happy Wednesday!

Yesterday I blogged about applying Silicon Valley know-how to politics,  how under the covers of Irreni World Scale lie the principles Silicon Valley computing. Specifically I went on about the process of innovation being agile. Agile is defined to be a constant back-and-forth of top-down versus bottom-up design approaches called iterations. We can think of these top-down versus bottom up iterations as a revolution, a revolution of a wheel of design  where top and bottom of the wheel represent top-down vs. bottom-up design perspectives respectively. The new form of 21st Century revolution then is innovation brought on by each revolution of the design.

I then made the statement that if there were only one thing to learn from Irreni World Scale it is this: that politics today needs new bottom-up systems for people to make decisions for themselves.

Today, I'm going to change the one thing to learn from Irreni because there is an even more important fundamental principle within Irreni. Here it is: if there is only one thing to learn from Irreni World scale it is that a design that works at one degree of scale doesn't just automatically work at larger degrees of scale.

Today we have the same US Constitution at 300 million people as we started with in 1789 with 10 million people. That's a whole order of magnitude of change. Even more important is the degree of technological change. Our technological advances have grown by orders of magnitude far exceeding 10, 100 or 1,000. Think nuclear bombs vs. cannons.

In computers and engineering in general we would never just assume that what works at one scale would work at a larger order of magnitude larger. In fact, quite the opposite. We know designs do not automatically scale. Yet for some reason in politics we assume designs scale? Wha?

Let us consider the automobile. The very first automobile was invented when there were no paved roads, just roads for horses. Given that then even in 1910 if you had an automobile that could go faster than 10 mph the road infrastructure wouldn't support it. What road in 1910 would support a sustained  65mph for hours on end like we drive on freeways today?

Over the course of 100 years our automobiles have scaled an order of magnitude in speed driven, from 10mph to 100mph. We drive ten times faster than in 1910. But to do this the road infrastructure had to change completely. If we still had the roads of 1910 then we would still be driving 10mph.

Further consider this: is there ever a scenario where a 747 Boeing airliner jet could be used as a matter-of-course to drive 60mph? Of course not. The point being that as scale increases what is appropriate for a design at one magnitude is not appropriate for another.  Eventually a design like the automobile no longer scales at all,  the automobile topped out at 100mph on the highways. If you want to go faster than 100mph then you'll need to take a train or a plane. If you want to drive to the grocery store then you'd never take something on the scale of a plane or train.

And in politics? Do all designs scale to any level of population and technological change?  Think about it.  How have we re-designed the US Constitution to scale?

So the one true lesson from Irreni to learn above all others is not just that politics in 2015 needs new bottom-up systems as I stated yesterday, but rather that designs that work at one degree of scale do not work at larger degrees of scale. All designs need to be changed to scale.

There are corollary lessons just iterated as well. One is that scale out of a particular design much as the automobile improved speed is only possible if supporting infrastructure is changed completely. Roads today are nothing like roads in 1910. Another corollary lesson is that eventually a design fails to scale such as an automobile and so needs to be replaced entirely with something different, such as airplanes replace automobiles at speeds faster than 100mph.

Have we applied any of these scale lessons to the US Constitution? No. We haven't. We have yet to learn the principles of design scale, a lesson of Irreni World Scale. Today we treat the US constitution as if it can scale without change regardless of the changes in levels of population and technological growth. Further we haven't changed the infrastructure, our States, to support the primary design of the US Constitution as it was gradually amended. We haven't rewritten the US Constitution when it failed completely.

Irreni World Scale acknowledges that a design for one scale cannot be assumed to work at a larger scale. Scale requires innovation of a design, scale requires supporting infrastructure changes as well as scale requires eventual replacement of a design with something new altogether. These principles of design scale are not Silicon Valley computing specific. However, what is Silicon Valley specific is that we, of all people, here in Silicon Valley should be acknowledging the design scale principles and we should be clamoring for and leading the way of scaling political design. We know the design truth of scale in our very bones and so it is incumbent on us in high tech to spread the word: designs don't scale without innovation, designs need supporting infrastructure changes to scale; and designs need eventual replacement.


Welcome to the 21st century!

Scale your empathy, scale the world! 

Find your tribe!

Be sexy people!

The future is coming! 

Innovate at a rapid pace!

Slow speed ahead!

Well come! and well met!

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