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The Future of Data Systems

If a thing be ordained to another as to its end, its last end cannot consist in the preservation of its being. Hence a captain does not intend as a last end, the preservation of the ship entrusted to him, since a ship is ordained to something else as its end, viz. to navigation.

  • (Often quoted as: If the highest aim of a captain was the preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.)
  • —St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1265-1274)

So far, this book has been mostly about describing things as they are at present. In this final chapter, we will shift our perspective toward the future and discuss how things should be: I will propose some ideas and approaches that, I believe, may fundamentally improve the ways we design and build applications.

Opinions and speculation about the future are of course subjective, and so I will use the first person in this chapter when writing about my personal opinions. You are welcome to disagree with them and form your own opinions, but I hope that the ideas in this chapter will at least be a starting point for a productive discussion and bring some clarity to concepts that are often confused.

The goal of this book was outlined in Chapter 1: to explore how to create applications and systems that are reliable, scalable, and maintainable. These themes have run through all of the chapters: for example, we discussed many fault-tolerance algorithms that help improve reliability, partitioning to improve scalability, and mechanisms for evolution and abstraction that improve maintainability. In this chapter we will bring all of these ideas together, and build on them to envisage the future. Our goal is to discover how to design applications that are better than the ones of today— robust, correct, evolvable, and ultimately beneficial to humanity.

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