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Not Quite Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

As I was studying the feedback coefficients for a buck converter digital control loop, a thought occurred to me I’d like to bounce it off you. All the converters of yore, even if they had some digital content like enable and power good signals, had analog control loops. Now, more and more, the control loops are digital. There isn’t a one-to-one correlation between the filters, feedback compensation and PWM generation circuitry, and in some ways, the digital versions are better because functions that are impractical or impossible in analog form can be implemented in digital hardware, though it’s hard to imagine all the pieces that make a digital controller, like the microcontroller (for the serial port), the DSP, the state machine and the blocks of memory to support all of the above could ever be cost effective, but if you want to pretend your controller is part of the digital system (from the CPU point of view), this is what is needed.

It strikes me there is natural evolution happening before our very eyes. What was analog, is becoming digital. For the next step, there are already signs that the digital is becoming software. There’s the well-trodden path: analog becomes digital, digital becomes software.

Pick anything around you. Your watch was analog, then it became digital and soon it will be software. Has this already happened? How many people do you know who don’t wear a watch? Why would they when they can get accurate time from their phone. Phone? That’s portal to the cloud: software.

We see this all around us. Medicine used to be analog, then it became digital, now it’s becoming software.

Look at cars. They used to be analog, then their digital content took over. Now we have Lyft and Uber and the car experience has become more virtual. Imagine what a Google or Apple car will be like. The experience will be wholly virtual (software). You’ll pull up the app on your mobile device and order the self-driving car to appear where and when you specify.

There is an inevitability to all this. Will it happen to us, too? I know I’m already planning to replace my wife with a sexy Japanese robot (just kidding, dear). But, seriously, we were analog for several hundred thousand years. Everything was physical. Now most of our experiences occur through a screen and if they are not 100% virtual yet, the planning and implementation of the physical experience occurs on the web, or the cloud, whatever that is. I claim we humans are transforming our interaction with the world from a time-stamped, sequential digital experience to a software (virtual) experience.

What do you think? Are we experiencing an evolutionary shift to a software-oriented lifestyle? Or, am I simply losing my mind? I would like to add one factor. Software wants to be free, so here’s the full progression: analog evolves into digital, digital evolves into software and software wants to be free. Think about it.

I know LP vinyl is coming back into fashion, but are there other contrary examples where software reverts back to analog? Use the comment section below to register your thoughts about my metal stability.

3 comments on “Not Quite Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

  1. TomC123123
    March 18, 2016

    Ken:

    Fascinating observations.  Just some (perhaps disjointed) comments/thoughts.

    Along these lines (and perhaps this has been covered previously here), the movement from physical media to digital media is (or should be) of great concern to anthropologists.

    Much of history has been lost to fragile media.  We will never know what may have existed before stone/clay tablets. 

    As an audio engineer, I am most concerned about our audio media.  I suspect that our vinyl discs will outlast our recorded CDRs.  Manufactured/recorded CDs are another issue as they are mechanically stamped and do not rely on chemical change of the recordable media.  We do seem to believe that our digital media will be so heavily backed up that this will not be an issue, but I have my doubts.

    Further, I have heard about the terrible tragedy of magnetic tape.  I've recently pulled a compact cassette from my archives that was recorded back in 1969 (about 46 years ago), and it still played fine.  Of course it has been dubbed to CD for now.

    And one more thing – I had recorded hundreds (over a thousand?) cassettes from 1966ish through 1995ish and had perhaps three fail in the recording/duplicating process.  Since 2000 (I think), I have recorded hundreds of CDRs.  I've many (perhaps a hundred) that failed in the recording/duplication process.  Just another indicator of the fragility of this 'improved' media.

    All for now, thank you for the thought provoking article.

    Thomas Chrapkiewicz,  Detroit, Michigan, USA.

     

  2. Victor Lorenzo
    March 21, 2016

    That could also happend to technical literature, reports and data in general. We used to have books and magazines and read a lot from them, now mobile phones and tablets are struggling to replace them. Currently an ever increasing number of people spend more and more time in front of mobile devices and PC screens, virtual social networks are replacing “real” social networks.

    One could say, we're not just loosing our data in the cloud, we're starting to be less human day after day.

    Things are getting digital, humans are getting… who knows?

  3. Ken.Coffman
    May 11, 2016

    One thing that surprises me is how often I have to go to a paper databook to look something up. A modern semiconductor company would like you to forget some parts ever existed, but the databook does not lie. Just because it does not exist online doesn't mean it never existed. 

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