A Conversation on Metaphors From COFES

Years ago I was chatting with a friend of mine who is an engineer at a large aerospace and defense company. As I was talking technology, PLM and other TLAs, he stopped me and said: “Dora, you realize to me these are just tools in my toolbox?” He simplified all our technology to one metaphor.

I was reminded of his metaphor at COFES when John Gage spoke about the need for metaphors to better explain the design of computing networks. Gage was the 21st employee of Sun Microsystems and credited with coining the phrase “the network is the computer.” He noted that we can now have “tools of understanding” if we let knowledge spread. His presentation was titled: “But can it slice a pineapple?”, which was a nod to skeptical natures when the impossible was proven possible. He spoke on the future of networked design, and future design for networks.

While John’s ideas were still fresh in our minds, we heard John Voeller speak from his rich research experience on what major changes we face and what  opportunities we should consider. Voeller is a senior vice president at Black & Veatch. He shared insights from his research over the past 14 years on 31 countries. For example, did you know all supplies of indium will be gone by 2017? Indium matters since all multi-core chips need it. He noted we face a new complexity. I was fortunate to get to spend some time with John and John after their presentations. See the first part of our discussion below.

Here are some quotes from the video:

John Gage: (regarding metaphors) “It’s the most powerful way to get across an idea…those words ‘tool‘ and ‘see’ are metaphorical… You’ll become involved in a conversation with millions of others in a way you never could before. That’s why the the power of what we’re building has this enormous capability to change things…opening up vistas of visualization…”

John Voeller: “We spent the last 30 years optimizing silos…We’ve utilized computing in some powerful ways but…we’ve just barely scratched the surface on getting the computer to … what we really want to get to, a companion…We have enough computing power now to do some pretty amazing things but it’s disjointed…the idea that we could get computers to a point to understand a human metaphor is a powerful goal.”

Stay tuned to the next video clip from my conversation with John and John to find out what that “one more step” is that Voeller mentioned.

How about you – what great metaphors have you heard or used to better explain complex technology and computing to customers, family and friends?

UPDATE: Proof the toolbox metaphor works – Mark blogged earlier this week on Parametric and Direct and noted “as a CAD designer, you want both tools in your toolbox.”

– Dora

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/news/a-conversation-on-metaphors-from-cofes/