African Information Engineering Part 3

This is the last of a three part series(links to: Part 1 and Part 2)  taken from a forthcoming publication. Dr. Peter Chen is a world reknown computer scientist. His 1976 paper on data modeling is one of the most cited papers in the the field. Chen pioneered an abstract way to describe a database known as Entity-Relationship Modeling(ERM). In 2014’s highly automated and digitized world, with so many people  living in developed urban area you’re likely using some service or device whose designers directly or indirectly used ERM or one of its descendants. If you plug into the grid in any way, “likely” becomes certainly.  A 2002 paper reflecting on the long-lived success of ERM, says:

Many people asked the author how he got the idea of the Entity-Relationship model. After he kept on  getting that kind of questions, the author thought it might be related to something that many people in Western culture may not have. After some soul searching, the author thought it could be related to his Chinese culture heritage. There are some concepts in Chinese character development and evolution that are closely related to modeling of the things in the real world.

From Wikipedia:

Peter Chen, the father of ER modelling said in his seminal paper:

The entity-relationship model adopts the more natural view that the real world consists of entities and relationships. It incorporates some of the important semantic information about the real world.

He is here in accord with philosophic and theoretical traditions from the time of the Ancient Greek philosophers: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (428 BC) through to modern epistemology, semiotics and logic of Peirce, Frege and Russell. Plato himself associates knowledge with the apprehension of unchanging Forms (The forms, according to Socrates, are roughly speaking archetypes or abstract representations of the many types of things, and properties) and their relationships to one another.

As we saw in Part 2, Shabaka, several hundred years before Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, had preserved this knowledge that had been codified in Memphis much earlier, perhaps several millennia.

ERM deals with the structure of databases but the Memphite technology is also applicable to the dynamics of a database. There are two sets of symmetrical operations that can be performed on most databases

  1. Create-Delete
  2. Retrieve-Update

These operations, identified in 1983 are known as CRUD and remain in widespread use. The web’s HTTP protocol is based on a similar set of four operations.

  1. Post-Delete
  2. Get-Put

Every day you use the web, you’re using techniques of African Information Engineering!

Following in Leibniz’s footsteps, physicist Stephen Wolfram is seeking to make knowledge computable. One tool he’s using is the cellular automata like the one below


Perhaps connections between African Information Engineering and cellular automata can help African cultures get back in the game.