Sunday, July 05, 2009

Can we apply Kuhn's ideas to the WEB ???

I just finished reading Thomas Kuhn's famous "Structure of Scientific Revolutions". This book, today taken as classical text about the history of Science, is of amazing importance to understanding of the evolution of science.

Kuhn was the first who elucidated the concept of PARADIGM in a relation to science. Paradigm, which we should understand as a pattern of thought - rather than a theory or model, is the pervasive component of almost any human intellectual activity.

Kuhn proves that the evolution in science goes in a revolutionary way, by a process called "paradigm shift" which is usually abrupt and fast. One of the symptoms of the paradigm shift is the process of textbook rewriting - when the change appears to be unavoidable and untenable to the previous paradigm. Kuhn describes Copernican revolution, progress in chemistry, Newtonian physics, quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory or relativity as the key examples illustrating his concept.

Very good book - should not be too difficult to read even to those who did not practice science (as I did in old good days with theoretical chemistry ...).

I think, there is also another reason to read it. When reading it I could not avoid thinking about the another field of activity where we witness revolutions and paradigm shifts. See - the history of Web - the web grown to today's size, mostly between 1995 to 2000 - in just 6 years it has changed so much - media, knowledge ...

And, when we recall that the HTML was created in 1980, and HTTP in 1989 - we see that initially the old paradigm of communication was still prevailing. Until Netscape came with its killing application - the browser - and made the shift.

And I'm almost sure we are at the footsteps of another paradigm shift - that between today's web of documents and tomorrow's web of data (aka Semantic Web). Kuhn's book teaches us that it is not very easy to predict when will it happen, and that we probably will witness some dramatic changes. It also explains the latency with SW adoption. The technology is here for years, yet ... Paradigm has not yet shifted !!!

1 comment:

  1. Taking rapid changes of the web as an example for the paradigm shift is a good idea,a strongly argued point.