The future of the future

Derek Martin dmartin at
Wed Feb 16 16:06:24 EST 2000

On Wed, 16 Feb 2000, Ron Peterson wrote:

> I do think that there is one significant difference between radio and
> computers.  The function of a radio hasn't really changed much.  A
> computer, on the other hand, is really just a machine we use to build
> *other* virtual machines.  And while computers are getting cheaper, they
> are also getting more powerful.  Therefore, the number of things we use
> them for will increase in number in complexity.

Yes, computers are general purpose machines, where radios aren't. Makes
them harder to manage.

> What do you think?  Will the profession of managing computers blossom? 
> Or wither?

In the near future (say, a decade), I don't see any threat to sysadmins.
It may well be that, as computers and computer science become more
advanced, they may be able to do a lot of work that we do, reducing the
need for lower-level sysadmins, but until a REAL thinking machine is
built, we're still required. 

One of the job functions sysadmins have that is often overlooked is to
come up with solutions to new and interesting problems that crop up in the
course of doing business (this is sometimes called ad-hackery, but doesn't
necessarily need to have a derogatory meaning).  Until AI is a reality
(which I hope it never is, but I suspect some idiot will figure it out
eventually), you will need sysadmins.

As for why I hope AI is never achieved, it's exactly what you're talking
about.  Once machines can be made to think better and faster than humans,
the humans become obsolete, and we all end up flipping burgers at
MacDonalds.  Not what I want to do. Call me pessimistic (or paranoid,
insane, whatever else you like) if you want to, but I don't think movies
like the Matrix or Terminator are that far off the mark.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"    "Who watches the watchmen?" 
-Juvenal, Satires, VI, 347 

Derek D. Martin      |  Senior UNIX Systems/Network Administrator
Arris Interactive    |  A Nortel Company
derekm at  |  dmartin at

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