Is it time for Life 2.0?

version numbers - image of colourful numbers

Neophilia: a tendency to like anything new; love of novelty.

There is a never-ending push for new versions of everything in the IT world.

We don’t even have much choice anymore. In the age of cybercrime, we have to keep our systems updated. Bug fixes mean fewer (known) security loopholes. But it’s not always simple. Is it an upgrade or an update? And what’s with the version numbers?

Updates and upgrades and crashes

The terms "update" and "upgrade" have different meanings. A software update means a fix – bug fixes and small improvements. A software upgrade means the latest and greatest – shiny and bright and new features. That’s the theory anyway. Sometimes both of them mean that something else stops working.

Of course, that’s also why some tech (like Java versions in big companies) don’t easily get upgraded. We just know something will break.

Those missing numbers

In the ideal world, version numbers are consistent: 3 numbers separated by periods. In this perfect world, the version number 3.2.15 means major version 3, minor version 2, revision number 15.

In the real world, version numbers don’t always follow maths as we know it. What happened to Windows 9? Was it an unlucky number? There are plenty of examples like this. It’s the marketing version of "confuse and conquer", designed to "confuse and sell".

The nerdiest version number

If you are a programmer, you may (should?) have heard of Donald Knuth. He is the author of the seminal work "The Art of Computer Programming".

Donald Knuth designed and created a sophisticated typesetting system called TeX. (With special pronunciation – the "X" sounds like the "ch" in the Scots word "loch".)

Since version 3, TeX has used a unique version numbering system. Updates add an extra digit at the end of the decimal, so that the version number asymptotically approaches π. (The design was frozen after version 3.0, so all newer versions only contain minor updates.) The last version number in February 2021 was 3.141592653.

Let’s version some other stuff

Web 3.0

In all my years of web development, the issue was always browsers and browser versions. Trends changed as browser technology improved. Web 2.0 was a term for other people to argue about. Web developers were more concerned about the pain of coping with Internet Explorer.

Now we have Web 3.0. Really? Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, famously declared: "This is for everyone". And that is still what he wants. He dismissed the term "Web 2.0" as "jargon". And anyone who thinks that the "semantic web" is new to Web 3.0, forgets that Berners Lee coined the term more than 20 years ago.

Industry 4.0

You’re already tired of this one. Industry 4.0 is also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR.

Life and work are increasingly digitised. Moore’s Law may no longer hold true for processing power, but it aptly describes many other changes. Like big data: apparently 2.5 quintillion bytes worth of data are generated each day. That’s mind-boggling.

The term 4IR used to irritate me. But I understand that it’s important to recognise the changes we face. My real problem is the way politicians (and MICT) use the term 4IR. They add it to vague promises of new jobs and skills, as though the buzz word itself will make a difference.

Society 5.0

I came across this one in a recent ITWeb article and must admit: it’s new to me.

The term originated in Japan and is defined as follows:

"A human-centred society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space."

Huh? That apparently means a human-centred approach to the technological future. I didn’t know it needed a name. We should already know that when we don’t care enough about the people part of things, people push back.

Time for Life 2.0?

Or should it be Life 3.0? Should we have pre-covid, during-covid and post-covid versions? Don’t worry – you didn’t miss this one. According to Google, the only Life 2.0 so far is a documentary. But maybe we can start a new trend.

What do you think about version numbers, Society 5.0 and whether we need to number Life? I’d love to hear your comments.

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