Past Meetup

François-René Rideau on Computing Systems vs. Computer Systems

This Meetup is past

103 people went

Location image of event venue


Abstract :

Dijkstra once said that "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."

Imagine a world where programmers think not in terms of computers, but in terms of computing. In that world, programmers and businessmen don't focus on "finished products"; they focus on development processes and customer interactions. What counts as cheaper is not a shorter source file and smaller binary but a shorter interaction loop and a system overall easier to reason about. There are no "operating systems" and "standalone applications"; there are "interactive platforms" and "extensions" (just like Emacs, only less antiquated).

There is no painfully serializing data and saving it into file systems or databases, then painfully getting it back; there is pervasive data persistence. Virtualization isn't an advanced technique for system administration; it is a basic programming language feature. Meta-level programs aren't just arcane static code generation techniques; they are the regular way programs are built and combined, at runtime as well as compile-time.

A relatively simple switch in how you look at programming will lead to vastly different conclusions on what software architecture should look like, on what software development best practices are, on what software business can be."


Faré is a cybernetician specialized in software growth infrastructure, currently working at Google NYC (on the extension language of the build system Bazel ( He is known as a Common Lisper ( for promoting Lisp as a scripting language (, and having developed the build system ASDF 3 ( and the Lisp Interface Library ( combining ad hoc and parametric polymorphism.

He likes to think in terms of computing interactions and programming processes rather than computer devices and software artifacts; he once led the TUNES Project to reinvent computing ( and recently started a new blog on this topic, Houyhnhnm Computing ( He relatedly believes in the power of storytelling ( and of evolutionism (

His other interests span music, fine arts, psycho-history, epistemology, and more. He also spoke or was published at several libertarian ( venues. He tweets about computing as @ngnghm ( and on other topics as @fare ( You also find him on LiveJournal ( or Facebook ( Finally he maintains a collection of quips (