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In Search of Certainty: The Science of Our Information Infrastructure

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  65 ratings  ·  8 reviews
Ruling the Machines that Rule the World?

Our planet's information systems have now reached a level of scale and complexity at which we can no longer simply decide how they will behave. They are so sophisticated and so interconnected that humans can neither steer nor comprehend them with certainty. Can we trust such an infrastructure to society?

For more than twenty years, M
Paperback, 446 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Createspace
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3.86  · 
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 ·  65 ratings  ·  8 reviews

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Lorin Hochstein
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it
A thought-provoking but often frustrating read.

Burgess lays out a conceptual framework for buildilng reliable IT infrastructure using promise theory: a bottom-up approach to constructing systems that can heal themselves in a manner akin to biological organizations.

The author offers a lot to think about, the presentation of the book hurts his thesis. The author attempts to weave a narrative that includes many differnt concepts: from Shannon's information theory, Feynman diagrams, cellular automat
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating book with a lot of important and interesting points. Not great on the readability front. If you are working on/with a complex distributed system, this has some good ideas that are worth wrestling with. Recommended.
This is an excellent, if somewhat longwinded, read on scientifically approaching the topic of technology infrastructure and interaction as of today.

It discusses an impressive spectrum of topics across physics, information technology, computer science, formal logic, showing a deep insight of the current shortcomings and challenges we're facing.

He doesn't get too deeply technical throughout the book, it's mostly a storytelling approach to discover a path that the author had followed throughout his
Roger K.
May 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an insightful book that will make you rethink how we manage infrastructure and changes.

Burgess covers a lot of background before proposing his approach. While many of the topics (history of science, quantum physics, information theory, etc) will be familiar to those reading this, it was a nice summary of current thinking. He then bring all these threads together well in the last third of the book.

I would summarize Burgess' approach as DevOps + Antifragile. The book's theme of creating st
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought provoking (my copy is now full of post-it flags from all the interesting passages I wanted to come back to), but ultimately Mark Burgess was trying to do too much in this book. He spent a ton of time trying to hang together physics metaphors for large scale computing systems as a way to make the case for Promise Theory, the modeling approach he has been developing. As a former physics guy myself, I appreciate where he's coming from and I fall back on some of the same tools (phase transit ...more
Peter Sellars
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readops
This is heavy but enjoyable reading. It is very science focused and the first section of the book can be hard work - but getting through it provides essential concepts useful in the later sections. Promise Theory as a means to build better infrastructure gets a good run out - although once again at times this is quite hard work for someone lacking the science background. Understanding the concepts behind the CFEngine tool was really useful and will encourage me to read some other papers produced ...more
Alain van Hoof
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The least technical book of Mark, and therefore more easy to read. Still a lot of connections to other fields than IT like physics, building to a statement that System administration is still at the beginning of a revolution.
Steven Williams
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
I found the first two parts to be more interesting than the third. Overall is was a decent book, but it lag in the end. There was also a severe editing problem. I found so many mistakes in grammar, it became quite tedious at times. Just who I wonder is responsible for.this.
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Mark Burgess is a writer with many interests. His books span from fiction to hard science, and he actively writes philosphically in his blog about all aspects of modern information culture. He is an active public speaker on the international conference circuit, and is engaged in promoting science to a wide audience.

He is the Founder and original author of CFEngine. He was senior lecturer and then
“We shall have to stop thinking of technology as something invulnerable that is merely used by humans, and view it as part of a greater cybernetic ecology all around us. The key distinction in an environment is not between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’, but between semantic and dynamic: intention and behaviour. Biology has already drawn these lines, and through us, it will integrate the inanimate with the animate in information systems, until we no longer see a pertinent difference between the two.” 2 likes
“our perceptions of being ‘in control’ always have a lot to do with scale at we focus our attention – and, by implication, the information that is omitted. We sometimes think we are in control because we either don’t have or choose not to see the full picture.” 0 likes
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