Two Recent Talks

Video for two of my recent talks has gone live. Here they are!

Whence Complexity

As programmers we grapple with complexity. Whether we classify it as "essential" or "accidental" complexity, we all agree that complexity is poison. At the same time, as living beings, we are sustained by complexity. Complexity allows us to sustain our existence far from thermal equilibrium. In natural systems, complexity produces robustness. In human-created systems (whether information, social, political, or economic) complexity tends to create fragility and extreme non-linear responses to stimuli.

At Clojure/conj last November, I discussed the origin of complexity as the result of ongoing dynamic processes.

Thanks to some last-minute calculations about spherical chickens, there was also an excessively vivid mental image included, for which I apologize.

This one is on Youtube.

Loopholes in CAP

Last November, I also spoke at QCon San Francisco on the subject of the CAP Theorem (a.k.a. Brewer's Conjecture.) CAP says that, of the three qualities of "consistency", "availability", and "partition-tolerance", a distributed system can achieve at most two.

I have to confess that this was a particularly nerve-wracking talk, because I followed Eric Brewer on to the stage. Yes, that Eric Brewer, he of the Conjecture itself and one of the field's top experts.

CAP went from "conjecture" to "theorem" in 2002, when Seth Gilbert and Nancy Lynch proved it. And, thus, a thousand database products were launched. Like any theorem, though, there are subtleties to consider. In this playful talk, I look at all the assumptions underlying CAP and try to violate them all, with examples from real systems.

You can see this talk at