Saturday, January 14, 2012

Should I or shouldn't I?

I've been poking at the edges of technology and business opportunities for software agent technology for quite a number of years now, but have been very hesitant to pull the trigger and actually try to do something to realize the potential of all of the grand visions of agents. Initially it had all seemed so promising, and that remains true, but so much of it has been more of a research program with tangible results always tantalyzingly out of reach. But, now, I'm finally at the point where I am seriously considering whether enough of the requisite technology components may be in place to at least start to move forward. I'm still not convinced or decided, but it at least feels a lot more encouraging than at any point in the past 15 years, other than the initial euphoria I had back in 1997.
When I step back and look at all of the pieces of technology that would be required to come together to implement true intelligent agents or at least functional, industrial-strength software agents, the view is breathtaking and quite daunting. There is still tons of hard-core research needed and a lot of the technology is simply not ready for prime time.
But lately I've been taking a slightly different perspective, and trying to focus on identifying a realistic subset of the vision and technology that I actually could make very real progress on in the here and now. I've made some great progress and this approach looks promising, but there is still too much that is still vague and foggy.
There are two critical questions that I face: 1) have I identified a small enough subset of the problem that I can actually implement in fairly short order, and 2) will that subset have the critical mass needed to be successful from both a technology and marketing perspective.
Unfortunately, this whole area is still highly speculative and even if I can and do build a product, it would be more of "a solution in search of a problem" than a clear market need that I can simply plug in to fill. That is probably the biggest concern holding me back on the business side of the equation.
Ultimately, I may simply decide that I could build something, but then decide not to.
Or, I may decide that I will learn enough from the experience and accumulate enough valuable technology buzz words to put on my resume that the technology effort may be more than worth the business risk.
Right now, my bias is towards starting to write some code next week.
I'm also currently looking around for some new consulting or contracting work and struggling with the question of whether I'd rather have the certainty of a decent income versus the risk of pursuing a new technology venture. I really would prefer the latter, but I simply do not yet have a solid fix on success in that direction that I would be willing to bet the farm on.