Global Software Architecture Summit 2019 – episode IV

This is the fourth episode in a series of posts reviewing the first Global Software Architecture Summit that took place in Barcelona the 10th of October. To see the whole list of episodes, please visit this.

Reactive Architecture Patterns Debate

This second debate was moderated by Jakub Marchwicki (@kubem), and speakers were David Farley (@davefarley77), Mark Richards (@markrichardssa), Len Bass (@LenBass4), and Christian Ciceri. It had the Reactive architecture style, and incidentally the Reactive Manifesto and its advocacy of asynchronous procedures, as its key topic, deriving into complexity often too.

Actually, I signed the Manifesto 5 years ago (under the name of my company at a time, though), and have been working with asynchronous messaging since, whenever no dialogue with humans is required, because it improves performance at the UI level, and this is something that, as it is immediately obvious, makes sense.

Reactive architecture style has become extremely popular: Node.js was asynchronous from scratch, all programming languages got their implementations of asynchronicity in recent years, and several flavours of Event-centric architecture styles arose as well. Even a Reactive Foundation showed up, now as part of the Linux Foundation. Clearly, async came to stay.

However, if decoupled transactions, cut in pieces to be handled by autonomous services, were already hard to govern, making them asynchronous turns out to be even harder, as Len Bass repetedly said during the debate. Are our teams ready to handle this complexity? And more importantly, is this complexity necessary in all the contexts when it is being applied now? Unfortunately, this debate on complexity kept the speakers to explore other implications, or technologies which implement reactiveness which might not be known by the audience.

Cover picture of the end of work book
The End of Work book

Another fascinating idea dropped by one of the speakers, but not followed up, was this seek of humanless that technology seems to be in seek of recently. I am afraid people with no technical background is increasingly feeling upset, even scared, by this pursuit, and I do not see that people with technical background (like the speakers, for instance) spend enough time stating clearly that the work is not ending. What we seek is automation of tasks that, by their own nature, do not require understanding to be completed.

For Artificial Intelligence, no matter its name says, is not turning machines into smart entities: machines can be trained to recognise cats in pictures, but not to know what a cat is. Some people believe that machines might achieve that ability (let’s say true intelligence) in the future, but I do not see this happening soon because just a few animal species reached that point, and evolution needed thousands of milions of years for them to appear. To behold tiny algorithms transcending their machine nature and become beings is not a spectacle I am expecting to see in my life.

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