The Design of Software (CLOSED)

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What does "state of the art" mean?

I hope this doesn't start a s**tstorm, but what is "state of the art"? In another thread, several people agreed that Lisp is not "state of the art." I hear this phrase a lot in advertising copy, mixed in with other terms that I don't know what they mean either: e.g. "heavy duty", "lite", and "rich Corinthian leather." (Where is Corinthia & what makes their leather so rich?) I even saw a menu which advertised "African tuna."  What is African tuna?  I thought tuna swam in the ocean & went wherever they damn well pleased.

Does "state of the art" have a definition? What art are we talking about? Who decides what state it's in? Why isn't it "state of the science" or "state of the technology"? Art & science have not been synonymous since ancient Greece.

John Foxx
Thursday, April 07, 2005
It's often used as a politically-correct synonym for "buzzword compliant."  For example, "You should replace your COBOL system with a .NET/XML variant, because it's state-of-the-art."

Of course, the term "buzzword compliant" doesn't do justice to the really great cutting-edge projects.  A lot of new technology *is* cool, *is* better, and *should* be used in place of COBOL.
Ryan Send private email
Thursday, April 07, 2005
It means whatever you want it to mean.
KC Send private email
Thursday, April 07, 2005
NetFreak Send private email
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Main Entry: state of the art

: the level of development (as of a device, procedure, process, technique, or science) reached at any particular time usually as a result of modern methods


If the "art" is tech, it is the current state of development in the tech world..

Basically the latest and greatest.  Almost always used in the tech world, of or relating to technology of some sort.  But it can be used in other areas, but tech is characterized as changing often, so..
Randall Fox Send private email
Thursday, April 07, 2005
I think one has to look at a strict definition here without trying to assign a "goodness" or "badness" to it.  "State-of-the-art" means recently developed, using recently developed technology or processes.

Frustration sets in when this neutral adjective is used in a marketing capacity to indicate superiority.

In technology, state-of-the-art implies that someone developed something new to achieve a particular benefit.  The assumption is that the benefit is customer driven.  This isn't necesarily the case.  It can be to benefit the technology vendor, the development process, the sales process, keeping up with the Jones', etc.
Bill Carlson
Thursday, April 07, 2005
This billionaire explained that there are certain terms that financial people use to sell things to you, like "P/E ratio":

"Innovation" is our most successful technology word. (Even political PR guys like Frank Luntz link it with education/employment, to sell politicians.)

"State of the art" probably only is powerful with researchers, since their whole jobs and paychecks rely on pursuing it. People here have already pointed out it doesn't mean powerful or useful, just new. And if you take Alan Kay's word for it, what CS researchers consider state-of-the-art isn't necessarily something to brag about. ;)

Lisp is particularly tricky to talk about, since most people don't realize that normal users can evolve it, not just some Benevolent Dictator and his posse. So eyes can easily be focussed in the wrong direction.
Tayssir John Gabbour Send private email
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Who cares what it means? It sells.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Friday, April 08, 2005
It means things like Windows and Buicks. It is often mis-used to mean "leading edge" or "innovative".
Friday, April 08, 2005
State of the art is a joke. Nothing we do is state of the art. Refinements of a selection of good ideas (that seem to be applicable at the time for the computing expectation of 40 years ago--projecting forward 5 years) from 60 years ago? Yes. State of the art? What's so state of the art about an optical mouse that cost 30 cents to make? Any highschool kid can make one with legos. The closest the commercial software world came to implementing a good idea in the last ten year was aspect programming and they are still trying their best in recent years to implement it in a way that suggest they may have completely missed the point.
Li-fan Chen Send private email
Sunday, April 10, 2005
The minute white boxes disappear,
and people don't think of GPS as accessories,
and computing units are measured in meters,
and Lifestream is a word people recognized,
and windows goes back to being used to label a part of a building

is when you'll know we hit anything remotely state of the art.
Li-fan Chen Send private email
Sunday, April 10, 2005
State of the Art is just one of a set of hollow cliches. The ones that really make the cringe are "Industrial Strength" (often used in the Rational/RUP/Enterprise world) and "Industry Standard".

Who wants the "Industry Standard" of an industry that delivers way over budget and late in around 60% of projects? According to the pessimists at Gartner, that is.

Talking of brainless cliches, how about "Best Of Breed Solution"!!! Oddly enough, also common in the salespeak of Big E Enterprise selling.

These statements appear to be aimed at the non-technical people (or ex-technical people) who make the big-money purchasing decisions of products to inflict on the techies.
Mantissa Send private email
Monday, April 11, 2005
It's somewhat like 'terrorist'. A deliberately imprecise and emotive term that is used for its effect on people rather than its informational value.
Colm O'Connor Send private email
Monday, April 11, 2005
Patent terminology has the phrase "person skilled in the art" meaning someone who knows the field. So I suppose art == field. And "state of the art" == "current state of this technology".
Alex Send private email
Friday, April 15, 2005
"It's somewhat like 'terrorist'. A deliberately imprecise and emotive term that is used for its effect on people rather than its informational value. "

Someone who deliberately targets civilians.  Where's the imprecision?
N. Elk Send private email
Monday, April 18, 2005

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