A couple of weeks ago one of my colleagues had a really interesting interview. He was speaking to a mathematician, Stephen Woodcock at UTS. He’s the kind of mathematician who does modelling of complex systems. Almost in a throway moment the Dr Woodcock started talking about how maths had completely revolutionised the way we design things like bridges. For thousands of years, he said, we built bridges that looked and functioned almost identically. We had no idea why this design worked. But it did. So we were doomed to repeat it.

But advances in maths changed all this. All of a sudden we could mathematically model what was going on. We could “test” on a piece of paper. And so we were able to build marvels like the Golden Gate and Sydney Harbour bridges. And they worked.

This is happening all over again. Except now it’s computers that are providing the breakthrough. Computers, the internet, the cloud etc., allow designers and engineers to “build” virtually, and then “walk” through and test and share their designs. They’re unlocking a whole new world.

It’s this transition that I explored on the latest episode of Thing Digital Futures:

Can’t see the player? Jump over to Soundcloud and have a listen.