Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Intesym is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Dr Neale Smith, director
Out-of-place and in-place
O(N)-time sorting process
Intesym is an electronic design consultancy with expertise
in data flow, processing and computation. Operating as
anything from consultant engineers to a technology partner,
Intesym draws on over a decade of in-house experience across a
multitude of fields. Their forte is increasing the sophistication of
technology through the simplicity of designs.
It is usual for technological enhancements to be accompanied by increased
complexity, because new ideas are built upon old. This reflects the mantra of
“don’t reinvent the wheel”.
Sometimes, however, wheels need to be reinvented, and that is what we do.
Intesym’s philosophy
Complexity in technology is a serious problem. For example, no one person
can have a full comprehension of how a modern computer works. It is beyond
the capacity of a single human mind. Such technology is only collectively
comprehended and collectively designed. This means that thousands of component
parts are designed independently by thousands of people yet are expected to
operate as a coherent whole. Efforts to control this become correspondingly
burdensome, with varying degrees of success.
A rule of thumb to gauge whether a design is simple is whether it can be fully
comprehended – and designed – by a single person. Not everything can be easily
reduced to such simplicity, but the fewer people needed, the better.
»Director: Dr Neale Smith
»Established in 2001
»Based in Alnwick,
»Services: Electronic design
engineering and software
»No. of employees: 3
Highlighting best practice
»Finding the simplest
design for a
sophisticated product
»A simplified design is:
»At least as capable
as a complex one
»Easier to understand
»More robust
»Cheaper and
easier to make and
Complex technology can only evolve
very slowly. Complexity stifles progress
because any attempt at change is
constrained by all of the other parts
imposed beyond one’s control. It
becomes a process of optimising
the pre-existing methods, where
improvements in the details are
heralded as “quantum leaps”.
In contrast, simple technology can be
unilaterally overhauled at relatively little
expense – more ideas can be explored
and rapid revolutions can be made.
Simplicity in design
Simple designs often have greater
capability than complex designs;
having a full comprehension reveals
their potential. Our method to achieve
simplicity can be expressed by two key
The first: look for hidden assumptions
and inappropriate axioms.
These occur in three places: in the
posing of the problem, in the prior
art of solving it, and in one’s own
attempts to solve it. We must check for
all possible instances.
Sometimes assumptions and axioms
are based on flawed logic; sometimes
the logic is correct, but unnecessarily
applied. Even a tautology can be
rejected if it is inappropriate to the
situation. Care needs to be taken
to avoid inadvertently reflecting a
solution’s assumptions and axioms onto
the problem, because such reflection
can make the solution its own barrier to
success. This is the key to our process.
Having a belief that something must
be so, especially if formally expressed
as such by an authority, can prevent
one from questioning whether
an alternative is either possible or
feasible. It is our opinion, gained from
experience and observation, that a
great many technological barriers
do not arise from laws of nature, or
indeed mathematics, but are instead
self-inflicted due to assumed truths
going unchallenged.
When an axiom is found to be illusory,
then a simpler path will become clear.
The second point: revisit historical
ideas; reject unnecessary novelty.
Old ideas are supplanted by new ideas,
often not because the new ones are
better, but because novelty is a primary
aim in a world driven by the need to
acquire patents and publish research. A
nebulous desire for change means that
old ideas can become forgotten unless
stumbled upon through reinvention.
Sometimes old ideas fall by the
wayside because advances in
technology render them obsolete.
However, as the occurrence of
reinvention and rediscovery shows,
technology goes in cycles and
obsolescence is only temporary.
New ideas are ingrained by exposure
through teaching and advertising; old
ideas less so. This can lead to difficulty
in looking for or remembering old
ideas. Sometimes an old idea is
ignored because, in its day, it was tried
and found to be impractical. Is it still
impractical now, or only assumed to
be so?
It is routinely
said that
advances with
pace. But does
»Discard prior notions of how to solve a given problem
»Question assumptions and axioms
»Avoid reflecting a solution’s problems onto the question
»Consider historical ideas in a modern context
»Invoke novelty sparingly
»“New”, “innovative”, “patented” “better”
»Look for routes around barriers, not over or through them
»If you’re too close to the problem, ask someone else
»Often a layperson can see an answer that an expert can’t
»Ask the silly questions
»Consider if the stated problem is the true problem, or an assumed
solution posing as the problem
»If the stated problem includes technical details, then it is probably
not the true problem
Simplicity realised
Much of modern technology is based
upon computers. Microprocessors are
now employed with vast swathes of
software for even the most trivial of
applications. Requirements for “next
generation” products are extrapolated
upwards from the current generation.
A vicious circle ensues, and complexity
This costs the world billions of dollars a
year in R&D. The underlying technology
is a wheel overdue for reinvention.
It is routinely said that technology
advances with ever-increasing pace.
But does it? Complexity certainly does,
but what about function, efficiency,
usefulness? We believe that a kind
of technological “Dark Age” began
in the 1990s. Since then, integrated
circuits have become smaller, faster
and cheaper, and so too have the
computing devices based upon them.
The principles by which they operate,
however, have not changed; progress
is being made through brute force and
expensively pushing the boundaries
We suggest that a better approach
is to, instead, remove the barriers.
In doing so, that brute force will
not be needed and the pressure will
be removed from physics. Greater
technological development can be
achieved through simpler underlying
design principles. Why spend billions
clambering over obstacles when it
would be considerably easier and
cheaper to take a route which avoids
those obstacles?
Almost 20 years ago, in conjunction
with our sister company ADR
Ltd, we began developing a new
computational theory, which we call
“synergetics”. By considering even
what it means for data to merely exist,
we found principles which almost
trivialise the design of computational
systems even on immense scales. Of
particular note, within this theory it
is seen that relativity and quantum
mechanical effects are a single
phenomenon merely observed in
different ways; this alone leads to the
greatest simplifications.
Arbitrarily high computing power
can be achieved with less complexity
– and lower design cost – than a
smartphone. And by “arbitrarily
high”, we mean on a planetary scale.
Individual computers can be designed
to assimilate each other, even over vast
distances, forming a single processor
of combined power and resources.
An analogy that we use for this is
water: trillions of raindrops add to the
expanse of an ocean, yet the ocean
is not composed of raindrops, it is
always a single body of water. Modern
concepts, such as the cloud, mobile
phones and even the internet itself,
could all be rendered obsolete.
goes in cycles
is only
»We call our simple computational principles “synergetics”
»It is a philosophy of the manifestation of mathematics
»To solve a difficult problem, transform it into a synergetic form
more easily solved, then transform the solution back
»Its most obvious application is in the design of computational systems
»Early synergetic prototypes built over 15 years ago
»Synergetics offers:
»Arbitrarily high single processor performance
»Global and even interplanetary distribution of that single processor
»Great simplification in design, deployment, and use of
computational power
»Current computer development follows Moore’s Law
»Lots of problems they have to solve exceed Moore’s Law (see
»Systems have evolved into sprawling complexity (“technical debt”)
»Some problems can consume as much computing power as is
»Not all problems need more power to solve, but the solving can
benefit from simplification
Problems can
grow faster than
computing power

This article was sponsored by Intesym. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.