It was my great privilege to interview Carl Hewitt for this week’s Innovators show. He is principally known for work dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he helped lay the foundations for a declarative, message-oriented model of computation. Then, and for decades thereafter, the virtues of that model were not widely appreciated because the problems it solves were not evident. Now, in an era of multi-core systems, cloud-based computation, and global interconnectivity, it makes all kinds of sense.
In one of the most striking moments in that talk, Carl says:
What can I change? Just me. For anything else, I send a message, I say please, and I hope for the best.
Then he laughs and adds:
Does this sound like some circumstances you are familiar with?
Having thought deeply, for 40 years, about the intersection of computation and human affairs, he has arrived at an elegant synthesis: The same organizational and communication patterns govern both realms. As well they should, since the two are now and forever intertwingled.
At the end of our conversation, we turn to Carl’s critique of Wikipedia. He raises important questions about how Wikipedia’s cadre of mostly-anonymous administrators, dedicated to the codification of conventional knowledge, come into conflict with academics and researchers whose work pushes the boundaries and conflates the categories of conventional knowledge.