The creation of the Periodic Table in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was an exquisite intellectual feat. In a small and simple data structure, it organises our knowledge about all the elements in our universe. The position of an element in the table immediately suggests its physical attributes and its chemical affinities to other elements. The presence of “holes” led to the search and discovery of previously unknown elements with predicted properties. This simple data structure has withstood the test of time. As new synthetic elements were created, they could all be accommodated within its framework. The quest to understand the basis of order in this table led to major discoveries in physics and chemistry. What this history teaches us is that there is high value in distilling and codifying taxonomical knowledge into a compact form.
Today, we face a computing landscape of high complexity reminiscent of the scientific landscape of the late 19th century. Is there a way to organise our computing universe into a simple, compact framework with explanatory power and predictive value? What is our analogue of the periodic table? Here, we describe our initial effort at such an intellectual distillation. The periodic table took multiple decades and the contributions of many researchers to evolve into the familiar form we know today. We offer this, therefore, only as the beginning of an important conversation.