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Hanging on in Quiet Desperation: Time & Programming

YOW! Lambda Jam 2018

Time has a profound impact on the complexity of the systems we build.

A significant amount of this software complexity comes from either an
inability to recall previous states or the inability to understand
how a state was arrived at.

From the foundations of AI, LISP and functional programming [1], to
causality in distributed systems [2], to the more grungy practices of
immutable infrastructure, or the unreasonable effectiveness of
fact-based approaches to large scale data systems; the ability to
adequately cope with time, and the change and conflict it inevitable
creates, is a common thread to being able to build and reason about
these systems.

This talk looks at the impact of time on system design. We will walk
through examples of large-scale systems and their battles with
complexity. At the end of the talk, the audience should start to see
the common spectre of time and have an appreciation of how
understanding time is fundamental to maintaining clarity, correctness
and reliability in systems.

[1] Situations, Actions, and Causal Laws
John McCarthy
[2] Times, Clocks and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System
Leslie Lamport