Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Institutions and Protocols

Some people seem very attached to "democracy" (scare quotes for when  sacralised), others seemingly can't get enough of Islam. Everyone thinks their own institutions are the best. For a systems person, they're all instances of protocols.

Best known in the case of Internet RFCs we start with a collection of entities (computers, people) which need to collaborate to accomplish some function. The protocol provides a solution: an architecture specifying particular roles assigned to the various entities and the relationships between them, and messaging protocols specifying message formats and dialogue /transaction formats.

Human institutions evolve by some combination of design and trial and error,  but distributed system protocols they are nevertheless.