Grid Thinking

The ever-interesting Lee Bryant has found this gem from Yoz Grahame.

Popular Power – the late lamented startup that wanted to sell spare cycles of desktop computers to computationally-hungry customers – was aiming at the wrong resource. Distributed CPU cycles are worthless unless you’re SETI or Pixar. Distributed brain cycles… now that’s a much more intriguing proposition.”

To which Lee comments:

“Distributed brain cycles – imagine the human equivalent of the massive zombie bot nets used by some virus writers – it all sounds like a truly distopian vision (a la Matrix), but maybe we can imagine some positive examples of how this could be used for good. We have always been intrigued by the idea of the circuit riders concept for tech support to non-profits. Could we envisage, for example, the work of a charity being put onto a massive online issue management system that pushed tasks out to specialists (legal, technical, logistics) to be solved during downtime or coffee breaks?”

So, in the diagram below, if the central cluster is the non-profit, solutions might be render-farmed by individuals both the non-profit and in other clusters (the pink dots).

Pretty brilliant if you ask me. What’s nice about grid thinking is that it puts a problem solving focus on many of the things floating around: lazyweb, blogs, SNA, wikis, etc. It got me wondering what sort of building blocks you might need for such a service.

The 4 bits that grid architectures tend to deal with are:

  1. Resource management
  2. Information Services
  3. Security Services
  4. Data Movement and Management

[Source – Wikipedia]

… and they seem like a good place to start. One potential hiccup though is that silicon is silicon is silicon, while lawyers aren’t programmers aren’t logistics experts (at least not always), so there’d probably have to be some sort of peer review feature. Anyway, worth some more thought I think.