Charlie Stross on the stop/go nature of technological change


I loved this talk. However I don’t buy his arguments on Perl. He argues that there’s going to be an advantage to being as close as possible to the compiler as Perl is. After first arguing that the internet of things is going to be powered by thousands of cheap 20¢ microcontrollers streaming data into the surrounding world, probably powered by a Linux based OS such as Android, and that are each object stronger than a bar of soap and a value of over $5 will have as much computing power as powerful as a laptop today.

We don’t need need to be as close to the compiler as possible today to handle processing like this. Especially if your JIT compiled language (JavaScript) has had the advantage of the browser wars fighting to push the optimization of that language to the limit, and nearly every type of computing device from today on has an engine to run it. Or your language (Java) has been entrenched by the enterprise for years, has its own JIT VM, has a second VM optimized for low power/memory devices, and is the foundation of one of the possible contenders for OS powering said internet of things.

No, unless they fight to make Perl ubiquitous on this continuing generation of embedded devices, it is more likely that this revolution is going to be powered by Java, JavaScript, or some compiled-to-js language, rather than Perl.

Preliminary comment before I watch the vid:

…our current societal model, whereby we work to earn money with which to buy the goods and services we need may not be sustainable in the face of a continuing squeeze on employment. But since when has consistency or coherency or even humanity been a prerequisite of any human civilization in history? We’ll muddle on, even when an objective observer might look at us and shake her head in despair.

I vote those of us with our heads screwed on all take to wearing t-shirts, badges etc saying ‘THIS ISN’T WORKING’, everywhere, all the time.

Oh Charlie. It’s all starting to make sense now. When I first read your books, I thought you were a visionary, now I see its all an act - you can put on the clothes of the futurist but you’re still leaning on your fading neural weights of what is “futuristic” to you.

Never mind that change actually isn’t gradual, to wit, smartphones proliferating in a relatively short period of time to cover most of the planet, each holding the capacity to direct a capsule to the moon and back with plenty of cycles left over to play the latest inane 2D pseudo-physics game.

With your allusions to moore’s law, you go further astray - and I suppose, we should forgive you, you’re really in the business of fabricating your grand stories with very little basis in reality, but honestly, how could you have missed the advances in graphene tech that suggests Terahertz speeds, or the impact on power density where you can recharge at “wire speed” like a capacitor.

In the end, Charlie, you said it best, you’re just a steam boiler engineer addressing a crowd that has moved on to the latest tech, while you wipe your brow and mutter grave warnings about crypto-currencies you barely understand.

Its okay Charlie, I’m sure Perl will be more relevant than any of your books in the future. After all, Perl has a practical purpose and does its job as directed, even when embedded in a paving slab.

If the developers in that room have a job writing Perl in 20 years, it’s because their code is utterly incomprehensible to anyone other than the person who wrote it.

:rolleyes: Another BitCoin trolley. Give it a rest, will you?

Charlie’s just an SF writer with a fair batting average in futurology. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s going to be wrong about some stuff — one of his favoured tee-shirts says “I tell lies for money”. Don’t treat him as a guru, let alone a fallen guru. Be entertained by his predictions: sing when he gets it right and cry when he gets it wrong, or vice versa, because that’s the business he’s in, entertainment.

Never mind that he’s been disturbingly spot-on on more than one occasion (e.g. the cancelled sequel to Rule 34). I’m dubious of his predictions about Perl-- I would say it’s a prime example of the deeply flawed infrastructure he mentioned-- but overall it was a thought provoking talk.

As for any predictions of graphene producing THz processors, I’ll take it with the same grain of salt that I give to superconductors, cold fusion, and quantum computing. Sometimes a promising technology hits unexpected and incredibly difficult speed bumps.


So you mean to say that they should not be gainfully employed in the future? And is this because you agree with Stross on how the current job market is untennable or because you mean to say that old people should get no jobs?
Or is this just a dig at Perlers in general?

There’s a point in there somewhere, I’m sure.

Two points:

  1. Talk was delivered at YAPC::NA 2014, a perl conference. What other programming language do you expect me to name check in it?
  2. Perl 6 development is running again and one of the VMs the compiler is targeting is … Javascript. (At which point your argument against perl becomes an argument for perl, kinda-sorta!)
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It’s more of a dig at the language itself. Its own slogan, “There’s more than one way to do it”, cuts right to the heart of the issue: Perl offers so many ways to say the same thing, it’s easy to develop your own personal dialect. I used to work at a shop where " someone else’s Perl" was a regular part of the lexicon. It’s definitely possible to write readable Perl code, but it’s entirely too easy for an undisciplined coder to produce “write only code”.

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Duly noted. I was expressing my own opinions on the language more than making a comment on the substance of your talk. It was perhaps a bit off topic, I’ll admit.

Any other day I would be defending Perl, Except today I actually had to work with it XD
(Just kidding, seriously)

Ah yes, the “troll” moniker, usually dragged out when people can’t understand or rather, don’t want to understand something.

I only brought it up because he mentioned it specifically in his perl-ramble. You did catch that part, right? I’m assuming you read it, but now I’m not so sure…

I’ll return you to your scheduled blog postings about everything Disney, since that seems to be the only content you really appreciate, supplicating to your entertainment overlords as they chortle and squeeze your wallet. (While abusing copyright, for “entertainment” sake.)

No wonder America is becoming a second-rate country, everyone is pawing at glowing capacitive surfaces while the world is changing around them. Perhaps everyone will pay attention when their TV shows stop being produced, or the internet becomes more balkanized.

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