IEEE Software

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I have entitled this section "essays" as opposed to publications even though some of them have in fact been published. These are mainly pieces that reflect whatever I happened to have on my mind at the time. Therefore the style tends to be less formal and rigorous than an article intended for journal or conference publication. 

Perhaps you will find some of them thought-provoking.


Should You Be Teaching Artificial Intelligence?
Sometime in the early 1990s  was invited to give a lecture in Munich to a congress of high school teachers. I decided to talk about a subject that was much in the news at the time – artificial intelligence – and consider the issue of whether this subject could or should have a place in a high school curriculum. I took the opportunity to explore some of the more interesting questions that were being debated both in engineering and philosophical circles at the time. It became the basis for the first Viareggio lecture.

The Computer Programming columns

I wrote a number of columns for the Italian edition of the trade journal Computer Programming. Most of them dealt in some way with topics related to agile methods, and some are more informal discussions of  themes from the published articles and other current literature. The original Italian versions can be downloaded from the site of the publisher ( Here are some English versions.

A Quiet Revolution in Requirements Management
An expanded, more informal discussion of the agile approach to requirements management outlined in the IEEE Software column.

The Empowered Programmer
A general introduction to some of the most important characteristics of agile methods, with a discussion of the central role of the individual programmer.

The Agile Theater
Surprising but true: software engineers can learn a lot from improvisational theater. Written together with a professional theater director and communications consultant.

The Next Economy
What has happened when previous economic revolutions have ended? Interesting ideas about what's in store for the Information Revolution from Thomas Fischermann by way of Paul Erdman.

The Prophet Alexander
Why is the father of design patterns so controversial in his own community? Reflections on a conversation with my architect brother. 

The Piranha Pond
A well-functioning software project can resemble a pond full of piranha. Here's how. 

The Anglo-Italian Club of Viareggio lectures

Viareggio is a resort town about fifteen kilometers up the coast from Pisa. The Anglo-Italian Club of Viareggio brought together people from the area to speak and hear English. Many of them were teachers; some were retired; some were students; and few were computer experts. From 1992 until 2012 I gave a (mostly) yearly lecture to the Club on some aspect of Information Technology. .As anybody knows who has ever had to give a lecture on IT for non-experts, it can be a greater challenge than a lecture for professionals.

Here are many of the lectures I gave over the years. The contents of most will be well-known to IT professionals; in fact, some are so dated now that their main value is nostalgic: it is fun to look back at what we were thinking in those days. But some of the topics might be unfamiliar  - if so, I hope you enjoy learning about them as much as I did.

Artificial Intelligence
The first lecture, in late 1992. Gathered together many of the principal arguments swirling around in the field of artificial intelligence at the time.

Chaos: The Mathematical Beauty of Nature
First given in 1993, when fractals and the Butterfly Effect had not yet entered the common vocabulary. This was the topic that most captured the imagination of the audience (who doesn't find fractals fascinating?), so I gave it a second time in 2002. This is the updated 2002 version.

The Information Superhighway
Written in 1994, just as the Internet mania was about to begin in earnest. It's amazing how many of the things we take for granted today were so new even a few years ago.

The World in Your Computer: Geographic Information Systems
Including a story of Leonardo in some Machiavellian mischief.

Virtual Reality
From Toy Story to Plato's cave, the state of virtual reality in early 1997.

The Internet Music Revolution
MP3, Napster, e-novels by Stephen King, it was all just beginning then.

Slightly Out of Tune: The Story of Musical Temperament
Inspired by a birthday gift from a brother, a book by Stuart Isacoff.

Nineteen Eighty-Four: Twenty Years Later
In 1984 I co-authored a series of television shows in Germany on the state of computer technology in the Orwellian year.

The Online Auction Phenomenon
Want to get rid of something? Sell it in an online auction, whether it's the World Bank or your mother-in-law. The 2005 lecture.

The Rise of Virtual Internet Communities
Wikipedia, open source, orkut - we're all connected now in 2006.

You Too! The Rise of Internet Video
It's all about You in 2007.

Get a Life - A Second Life
Virtual worlds and avatars in 2008.

The Blogosphere
Was 2009 the year in which the epitaph for mainstream printed journalism was written?

The Crowd: Wisdom or Madness?
.Collective intelligence, financial disasters, geosocial networking in 2010.

The Vodka Was Great (but the Meat was Rotten)
Natural language processing in 2011, the year computers beat humans at their own game.

An icon has died and the world looks to innovation for salvation in 2012.