The Plumber Scenario

At present all digital systems and tools are using an architecture that is based on Model View Controller, a system designed by Alan Kay, Trygve Reenskaug and Adele Goldberg at Xerox Parc in the late 70s. The main principles of this architecture are stationary databases and proprietary interface points, with sets of functions that connect the two. Data flows from the database to the user (at view), and then back. One way at a time.

This is changing as:

  • we are producing more data than what could travel to databases and in much faster speed. Consider the fact that when you finish a run the data is on your phone, but useless until it travels to a server and comes back. Now think of the value in all of this data sans that travel.
  • everything is becoming an interface, so how can we segment interface points in a propriety way? If I speak to a shared room, who builds this app? Who makes money out of it?

To make sense of this I have been thinking about the plumber scenario.

A plumber will (1) come to your house and work on (2) your pipes. (3) Rendering this utility in exchange for money. You do not take your pipes to your plumber, nor would you accept the plumber waving their fee for a flyer a day for the next 90 days.

Yet when we use tools today we convene around them. We have to travel to stationary systems, with our data, and wait for utility (paid for with ads or a fee). Remember that unlocking your phone, and clicking on a logged in app is a form of metaphysical travel, on a very propriety path (that is why Facebook bought Instagram for example).

What happens when we decouple convening and utility? What will happen when we pay for utility, and not the convening? I am more curious about a tool logging into my data, than me logging into a remote system.

Published by Nitzan

I am a designer, writer and strategist with interest in machine learning, liminal thinking and complexity science. In my commercial work I help companies build innovative tools, design better qualitative processes, and lead that human machine collaboration with complexity in mind.

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2 Comments

  1. <>

    Would not various ad platforms be examples of an entity (a tool) that “logs into your data”? It’s data that you’ve left behind on Facebook or some other place where you’ve spent time, and then those entities sell that data, or some abstraction thereof, to other entities (tools) who want to serve ads and/or provide value to you. Am I understanding you?

    1. It is a question of meta-physicality. Those systems (where ads are monetized by attention) are in a unique proprietary destination. A plumber comes to your place.

      Another way of thinking about it is there is only one Facebook, but there are ‘n’ number of plumbers. Plumbers are instantiations of the profession of plumbing.

      In biz terms it’s akin to ‘servicing’ products.

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