Building Blocks, Foundations, & Enterprise Architectures

Languages (spoken, visual, mathematical, etc.) exist because they are the building blocks for communication, understanding, and ultimately, relationships. Relationships form the foundation for social networks, communities, strategic partnerships, and more complex systems. These systems, and the interaction of within and across such systems, is a basis for life and living.

The problem is, the definition and conceptual understanding of these building blocks, foundations, and higher-level systems often does not exist. As a result, technology development efforts, strategic partnerships, marketing campaigns, and the like suffer from a lack of true coordination and comprehension.

In general, identifying building blocks, establishing foundations, and defining more complex systems and interactions is critical to advancement in this world. In most cases, establishing these foundations is a much needed platform for coordination and comprehension that supports achievement of a higher objective. In other cases, attempting to define abstract concepts and inherently complex systems is a fruitful exercise in itself, driving constructive debate, new questions, and lessons learned for the primary stakeholders involved.

With this in mind, I seek to outline some building blocks and establish a simple foundation for enterprise architectures. My hope is that by initiating this exercise, it may provide some conceptual clarity to non-technical folks and demonstrate a framework through which other systems can be defined and explored.

The Building Blocks of Enterprise Architectures

In general, an enterprise represents people, information, and technology joined by common needs, objectives, and/or behaviors. An enterprise architecture helps define the structure of the enterprise to enable the people, information, and technology to interact in an efficient, effective, relevant, and sustainable manner.

  • People – Represents individuals or the various organizational constructs that contain individuals, such as a program, agency, domain, or community of interest.
  • Information – Represents all consumable data, products, and knowledge that is collected or created by other elements of the enterprise.
  • Technology – Represents the infrastructure components, networks, capabilities, systems, and programs that support other elements of the enterprise.

The Foundation for Enterprise Architectures

Now that the puzzle pieces have been broadly defined and we have a simple lexicon to work with, we seek to: (1) outline how these building blocks might fit together to support various operational needs, analytical use cases, and other tasks/functions; and (2) identify the logical connections, interactions, processes, and/or relationships between and amongst the building blocks.

The diagram below begins to define this foundation, logically placing enterprise elements (people, information, technology) to support coordination and comprehension. This would then support the examination of each possible pair of building blocks (e.g. people and information) to define the enterprise architecture and identify critical interdependencies within the system.

Enterprise Architectures: Technology Focus

To this point, establishing definitions and diagrams provides us with a core foundation for understanding end user requirements, identifying security implications, pinpointing system interdependencies, and supporting system analysis efforts. Focusing in on the technological components of our enterprise architecture, we have categorized them into three logical tiers:

  • Top Tier (Front-End) – Represents the technologies that support end-user interactions (data access, analysis, visualization, collaboration, input, personalization, etc) with information/data and other stakeholders.
  • Middle Tier – Represents the utilities, services, and support components that optimize system interactions amongst all people and information.
  • Bottom Tier (Back-End) – Represents the core information architecture, system security, and access / identify management components to support a secure, efficient, and effective operation.

The bottom line is that defining building blocks and outlining foundations is a critical first step to support coordination and comprehension. Sometimes just putting words and diagrams on paper saves valuable design and development hours or at least drives valuable discussion. Particularly in the world of enterprise architectures, this process is critical to align stakeholders up front and to put development efforts in perspective. Whether it’s boxes, lines, definitiosn, or discussions, sometimes a little language goes a long way.

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Boundaries Of The Human Condition

“That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation.” – Thomas Jefferson

There exist many concepts and rules by which we are bound, some of which we may be aware and some of which we may not be aware. Those concepts and rules of which we are aware exist throughout nature and space because we can observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. Those concepts and rules of which we are not aware exist because we cannot observe them and learn them, manipulate them and control them, and hear them and speak them. In a sense, we are bounded by that which we can know and cannot know – although those boundaries can and will change throughout the course of history.

It’s interesting to think about our intellectual boundaries, limits, and intersections because they can be sliced and diced a thousand and one different ways. To a chef, his or her capacity may be bound by a colander, letting some things in and others out, clogged and dirty at times and crystal clear at others. To a biologist or chemist, he or she may see it as some semi-permeable membrane that expands and contracts, filters substances based on the needs of the whole system. And to an astronomer, the boundaries may be the vast unknown of our universe: with new discovery always comes more knowns coupled with more unknowns.

Regardless of the profession, it’s valuable to think about. For me, I’ll gladly wear the shoes of a different scientist each waking day but to start, here are a couple different categorizations of our intellectual boundaries, just to jot some thought.

Spatial Dimensionality

Think of our intellectual capacity as bounded by one big room. This room can grow as it’s supported by more material, can shrink with the absence of structural connections, and can lose energy with a loss of insulation, cracks in the windows, etc. It can become more complex or simple in a hour’s time with the addition or removal of new features and can take on a new look and persona with the manipulation of a few simple characteristics such as paint and fixtures. You get the point.

Walls – The walls are the support and protection, and are the primary means by which we are bound. The walls are our rules of lateral movement, being, and knowing. In a room of infinitesimal walls, we’ll find just as many corners (getting us ever close to the perfect circle) but we’ll still be limited by a surrounding perimeters. In our room, the walls are our physical concepts, our school subjects, our theorems and laws, our rules of society.

Floors – The floors are our foundation. Without the floor we would not be able to maintain our position and as a result, move from one position to another. The floors are our foundation for thought – our family, our circumstance, our physicality – our reference point.

Ceilings – The ceiling is our limit. The ceiling provides cover and security, shape and reflection, and a foundation for belief and new thought. The ceilings are our hypotheses and conjectures, our gateway to the unknown as much as it they’re the gateway for belief and clarity of vision.

Corners – The corners are the intersections of life, the crossroads of knowledge and new thought. Every corner is formed by the other structures mentioned above. The corners are the relationships, the interdisciplinary nature of life, the idea that everything is connected.

Existential Dimensionality

Now think a bit differently. Think that our intellectual capacity is bounded by core concepts which, when intersected, form feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and understanding. The core concepts are the things we should study – the basics of existence from which we should gain our foundations. I spoke about studying people earlier, with an overview of Archimedes. For the places, I’ll talk about some of my 2010 visits in the near future. And for time, we’ll it’s the scale by which we can make sense of history, and the perception and reasoning that comes with it. The triangulation of these three things gives an enclosure of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that form the boundaries of our intellectual capacity.

People – We are who we are as much as we are who we’re with (and who used to be with us). To feel, learn, and think, we must understand how other people feel, learn, and think (or felt, learned, and thought). This is core to society, law, science, religion, and everything else.

Places – We are who we are in the place that we are. If I were in a different place right now, my actions, feelings, thoughts, and beliefs may be different as a result. Place is a part of circumstance which most certainly contributes to our thoughts and beliefs.

Time – We are who we are because of the historical context in which we live. Time forms this context and provides structure to the way we think, how we can act, and as a result, what we might think and believe.

Feelings, Thoughts, & Beliefs – Our coordinates at any one time (say, x=people, y=place, z=time) describe who we are. The result of who we are is an output of feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. These form the boundaries, limits, and intersections of our intellectual capacity. Change coordinates, and we’ll find new outputs. And the most important thing to note: as with mathematical coordinate systems, there’s no limit to our coordinate system space, only to a local solid surrounding a group of coordinates. Limits may exist on my axes, by not on the coordinate system as a whole.

Links

Happy Planet Index vs Human Development Index

With my post on “Everything is Connected” I thought I’d investigate a bridge between happiness and the level of development in a country…

The Happy Planet Index (HPI)

“The HPI is an innovative measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.”

The Human Development Index (HDI)

“The first Human Development Report (1990) introduced a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI. The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development. The HDI sets a minimum and a maximum for each dimension, called goalposts, and then shows where each country stands in relation to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 1.”

Thoughts and Hypotheses

There are two relationships we will want to consider:

  • Correlation: Is there any direct relationship (positive or negative) between the values of the HDI and HPI?
  • Clustering: By region (or other characteristic field) can we find any clusters in the data?

Since these are composite indices of several weighted variable inputs, hopefully this top-level approach can identify some possible matches and mismatches between underlying data fields too. Related to the HDI, I bet the UN’s HPI (Human Poverty Index) has a bridge to happiness… or most likely, unhappiness.

Data/Discussion

  • There seems to be a connection between deviations in the data. When there exists a large deviation, for a specific region, for the HDI, there seems to also be a large deviation of values for the HPI. Notice that Africa, Australasia, and the Middle East all have similar double-digit deviations. What does this tell us about the range of development and happiness within a specific region? Perhaps this could be tested across many country-level metrics to see if the similar deviations occur more frequently.
  • As with the above note, since we have these metrics on a same scale/range, let’s combine them to see who has the highest composite score. In alphabetical order we have: 84, 125, 138, 137, 133, 134, 126, 134, 119, 117, 119. There seem to be three groups here: High (>130), Medium (100-130), Low (<100). Depending on a user need, algorithms can be created to join metrics to provide a big picture representation of economic, political, sociological, etc metrics, and flexibility can be built to dig into the weeds on the underlying data. This would be a nice comprehensive framework for understanding how countries (and regions as a whole) change over time.


  • Looking at the scatter plot, it is clear that some clusters may exist, for example with Africa (blue). Caribbean (orange), Europe (green), and Russia and Central Asia (purple) also show some quick visual clustering, while the Middle East (red) shows the opposite. What could this mean? That regional trade, policy, weather, etc are good supplementary foundations for providing happiness and development?
  • We could add trend lines and quickly check for any linear (or logarithmic) relationships. If any relationship does exist as a whole or with a region, it is certainly not a directly proportional or inversely proportional one. This was expected as these metrics are quite different (despite the overlap in life expectancy as an input dimension).

Moving forward, the methodologies and underlying dimensions (with their sources) should be compared. Data is always good, but with good data one still must be careful. That being said, this is a good start for a much larger investigation into the connections between different country-level metrics, especially if they are to be used in international and national policy.

Everything Is Connected

Whether it’s love and hate, birds and weather, past and future, or me and you, there are connections – both hidden and in plain sight – in everything. More than ever, we are finding that the world is a web, and I’m not just talking about the internet. That being said, the internet does help us bring some new connections to the surface through data sharing, communication, and information retrieval.

Math is a valuable support mechanism for these types of connections, especially when credible data exists that is representative of both sides of the river. It often can build the bridge to connect the shores, although it cannot always build traffic between the two.

I’ve posted before on the connections of seemingly unrelated phenomena. How can we determine where connections should (and should not) exist? How can we determine the strength and impact (both direct and potential) of such connections? What are the implications of humans controlling such connections and manipulating the bare characteristics by which some things are connected? These are questions to which we may never have an answer, but it’s important to at least ask the questions and attempt the answers. You never know where a new bridge might appear.

Whether its physical, metaphysical, mathematical, sociological, technological, chemical, theological, biological, philosophical, etc. the connections do exist. To start, we know scientific law covers the physical: Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation tell us that every object in this universe attracts every other object with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers. For the others, well, let’s just say the bridges are infinite and are always under construction.

the mind as a map

The human mind should work much like modern mapping and camera technology – zoom, pan, adjust, layer, interact – and export too.

At any moment, the majority of minds fall into one of two categories: big and strategic, or focused and tactical. But as changing times require changing minds, the third category has emerged: the dynamic and balanced. This category can be seen as a mix of the first two, instantaneously being able to function based on the attributes of the surrounding medium.

These minds are very much like new cameras, mapping applications, GPS tools, and related emerging technologies. They build a informative picture for a user, based off organized databases and knowledge bases, and allow a level of functional interaction to continuously feed new information to that user. These functionalities, when applied to the human mind, are all essential for continued growth in a rapidly changing (and unpredictable) society.

Zoom

  • Act as a lens. Be able to zoom in and out from a single focal point. For any given topic, the mind must be able to pay attention to the smallest of details while still being able to see the big picture. Understand the color and shape of the individual puzzle pieces while at the same time seeing where that piece fits into the full picture on the puzzle box.
  • Re-focus instantaneously at every level of zoom. Purposely making pictures blurry can provide useful in some instances, but the act of focusing should be natural and automatic. 
  • Like looking at a Magic Eye or a lovely Seurat, be able to find the right level of zoom where the picture is most clear.
  • “Zoom Analytics” as I’ll call it, should be embraced as a common analytical method. It’s always been a mathematical problem solving technique, but not universally taught.

Pan

  • Need to be able to swiftly move from topic to topic, and connect those that are related.
  • Moving back to a previously-visited topic should bring quicker loading of that memory.

Adjust

  • The mind must continuously grow in dimension and adjust for core characteristics. Recognize patterns and contrasts, shapes and sizes, color and form and adjust the view and output accordingly.
  • Toggle perspective and angle to see the infinite sides of any one picture. Perspective is everything.

Layer

  • If the brain consisted of data and memory silos, the main interface should be able to integrate any combination of data and memory into a single comprehensive picture.
  • It should be able to see localized data as well as aggregate data for larger constructs. Filter data and memory based off a set of parameters, re-organize it, and feed it into the common operating picture.

Interact

  • The picture is not static. The brain must by dynamic in nature, allowing a constant influx of new information and updating of old information. 
  • Re-organization of data and memory should be consistent with the changing society in which we live. When a scientific/technological revolution occurs, the way in which our information is processed and stored must be compatible with the changes in society.

Export

  • Not every tool can do every task. That’s why exporting is good. Create a new data set from which you, or someone else, can work. Export a map or a picture that can be analyzed by another set of eyes. For the human, you must be able to transfer stored information to others, and most importantly, communicate it effectively. English is English, math is math, kml is kml.
  • Language is good because it is a standard by which we can effectively communicate. Choosing words wisely is something that should be practiced on top of a common linguistic standard. It’s one thing to speak the same language, but another to foster understanding.

And so, truly finding a balance between big and small perspectives is important. It’s important for making wise decisions, being a team player, being an effective manager, giving valuable advice, and finding optimal direction in life. So as much as you make sure you can get deep in the weeds, make sure you can easily get out.

“It’s not what you’re looking at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

math in 2010 and beyond

If we want to fuel future growth and innovation in mathematics, three worlds must meet in the middle.

In 2009, we see three distinctly developed worlds:
  • The Communities: Math + People = Associations, Publications, Journals, Groups, Departments (ASA, IMS, WFU Math, etc.)
  • The Connectors: People + Technology = Social Media & Social Networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, iPhone Apps, etc.)
  • The Foundations: Math + Technology = Software/Web Applications (Wolfram|Alpha, SAS, R, Matlab, Mathematica, Statistica, etc.)

In 2010, we need these three worlds to mold into one, unified experience. With whom does the responsibility lie and when does it start? You and now.

connections of seemingly unrelated phenomena

Math has been a nice provider to the world with many of the building blocks for new scientific hypotheses, discoveries, technologies, and philosophical conjectures. It is a glue between science and nature, nature and theory – elegantly describing the physical world while evoking new thoughts about the metaphysical one.
That broad application of math is what I like about it most. Some say it’s still not “cool” enough (and I’ll agree to a degree). However, there is a constant flow of new scientific research that expands the boundaries of human intelligence every day, inevitably getting us all on the path to coolness.
One realm I find most compelling and rewarding is in hidden mathematical relationships, or the statistics of seemingly unrelated phenomena. Maybe it started with the golden ratio popping up in places you wouldn’t imagine. Or maybe it was in Freakonomics and discussion of the legalization of abortion and its impact on crime rates. Either way, new junctions are formed and unique insights are gleaned that push science into a exciting land of interconnectedness.

Here is a recent example of such seemingly unrelated phenomena, by a group of researchers from the Czech Republic. You can access the full paper here or the Technology Review summary article here.
From the abstract…
“Using measured data we demonstrate that there is an amazing correspondence among the statistical properties of spacings between parked cars and the distances between birds perching on a power line. We show that this observation is easily explained by the fact that birds and human use the same mechanism of distance estimation. We give a simple mathematical model of this phenomenon and prove its validity using measured data.”

Spacing between parked cars related to distances between birds perched on a power line. Now that’s something interesting. This makes me think of bathroom behavior too. Man code says there is an optimal urinal/stall to choose based on the permutation of available and occupied units (order matters!). To test your knowledge of man code, try the online game or download the iPhone app called UrinalTest.
The science employed here involves a branch of mathematics known as random matrix theory. In my opinion, bundling the subject matter is important so it can be documented, taught, learned, and applied. On the other hand, unbundling of the subject matter is just as important so new relationships can be formed and interconnectedness can be exploited.
In the end, these new explorations are important for science, education, and a better understanding of our world. And somewhere along the way we learn not to park under the birds, thereby minimizing the probability of off-white, splotchy, automobilistic accents.
Figure 1: From Flickr, birds on power lines.
Figure 2: From the paper, data points represent the probability density of the distances between the parked cars (crosses) and perched birds (squares), compared with the theoretical prediction (solid line) where the mean distance is normalized to 1.