The Big Red Box On Wheels -- "Ontologies-Of-The-Personal" Since FOIS '01

Almost 10 years ago, your host attended FOIS '01, in Ogunquit, Maine.  Having been introduced to the world of software ontologies in conversation with Prof. Graeme Hirst of the University of Toronto, your host developed a serious interest in the world of ontologies, on both a personal and a business level. 

His specific interest in ontologies is modelling of the work activities of the "autonomous human actor".  A short essay on this interest can be found here: Your host's overall interest in ontological engineering is mainly from business and journalistic perspectives, a natural inclination given his IT career which started in IT market research, then progressing to enterprise software sales.

Over the course of 10 years it is possible to observe that as a subject of serious ontological engineering research, the autonomous human actor has gone from "invisible" in the years 2000 and 2001 to "slightly more visible" now, in 2010.  It's an interesting phenomenon how "the human" is, in most software schemes, what can only be described as "the least privileged subject".  It is true that If one removes "autonomous" from the formula "autonomous human actor", the "human actor" at least is privileged, but in your host's view, generally only as a captive agent of the organization.

A glimpse of a different vision of software radically empowering of the autonomous human actor can be found here (see pages 22 and 23):

In this presentation, and as the invited "industry representative" to the ER2002 panel (although unable to attend in person), the vision presented was one first discussed a year earlier at ER 2001, in Yokohama, Japan.  The idea is basically a "use case" of the autonomous human actor and how they relate to employer organizations. 

Interestingly, the model described is not without a real precedent, which is the the practice of today's auto mechanics who own their own tools and who take their tools with them (in the "big red metal box of drawers on wheels"), from employer to employer. 

For a variety of social, economic and work-technical reasons, it seems possible that in greater or lesser degree, an ontologically-engineered, powerful personal software platform, empowering the autonomous human actor, may eventually make its appearance, with possibly dramatic results in the organization of work.  But the arrival of such software is gated today by the development of the ontologies of personal work.  In 2010, progress has been made, but not enough, not yet.

Bring Your Own Device ("BYOD") -- "Big Red Box" Closer In 2012

King Canute and IT departments might have something in common when confronted with the incoming tide of water or personal computing devices; in both cases "there is no hope"!

In 2012, IT departments are having to learn a new acronym, this time with four letters, and even more implications: "BYOD", or "Bring Your Own Device". 

Smartphones and tablets are just so much more capable in terms of empowering individuals that individualsare willing to put up with the inconveniences of maintaining parallel personal data universes.

In fairness to IT departments, we are seeing some efforts to accomodate BYOD, not a simple task.  For now, BYOD is about physical devices mainly and some basic services.  Semantic integration -- and at the same time, privacy-based segregation of personal and work life -- will take much longer.  The Big Red Box On Wheels isn't here yet.

(And in fairness to King Canute, apparently he wasn't such a egotist after all -- his point was more of a theological one, that even a King's power was limited.)