Updated: Apr 22
By Marc Chagall – Entre chien et loup (1943)
Famous for its use on the great seal of the United States, the motto "E pluribus unum" comes from a text attributed to the Roman poet Virgil (70 BC - 19 BC), and describing the transformation of a mixture of ingredients during the making of a kind of pesto cheese (they are not so crazy, these Romans!)
The importance of simplicity
In his famous article published in 1962, The Architecture of Complexity (*), the American economist and sociologist Herbert A. Simon (1916 - 2001) highlighted the importance of the structures underlying complex systems (economy , biology, social relations, chemistry, administration, etc.). He made the (not so trivial) observation that most of these complex systems have an architecture that can be broken down into relatively simple hierarchical structures, which makes them manageable if we consider them as a whole.
Like the Greeks who thought that with four elements we could build our World, it is easy to see around us that:
Using a few colors, we get the whole Painting;
From a few sounds, we get all the Music;
From a few signs (letters and diacritics), we obtain all the Literature;
From a few nucleobases (C, G, A, T), we make all living beings;
From a few ingredients, we get all the recipes;
The necessity of diversity
This transmutation from lead to gold, from simple to complex is not an obvious one and requires a lot of energy, know-how, time... Picking up musical notes makes neither a Beethoven symphony nor a Mozart aria. Stacking bricks makes neither the Taj Mahal nor the pyramid of Cheops. Aligning letters makes neither King Lear nor Crime and Punishment.
The diversity of the resulting "production" from a very small number of elementary bricks makes its wealth: a child, a dog or a flower cannot be reduced to a series of properly arranged chemical elements.
We find the same situation in the technological field: from a small number of conventions (protocols) we were able to build the Internet, the Web and their many uses, most of which were not even imaginable at the origin. A few basic elements (IP, TCP, http, html…), a multitude of applications (some 4 million on Google Play, 2 million on Apple Store).
Unify without making uniform
The Internet of Things does not break the rule. It is made up of a few conventions, essentially at the network level (radio, protocols, etc.), making it possible to deploy the infrastructure above which software publishers and manufacturers of connected objects compete in imagination to serve the needs of businesses, cities, people. With several thousand different types of connected objects already, not counting the classic devices that are gradually becoming hybrid (is a connected printer first a printer or a connected object?), the list is far from complete... Moreover, new technologies such as 5G will make possible uses that only the future will decide.
To keep its promises, the IoT needs a link between the infrastructure (networks, platforms) and the applications (objects, workflows), which is both stable enough to allow large-scale deployments and flexible enough to support the applications that we still ignore.
Our good old natural language, which has proven itself in other fields, seems the ideal candidate capable of linking without fastening, unifying without making uniform, assembling without resembling.