a keynote by Jess, first delivered at Liferay DEVCON 2021. Also found at Craft Conf 2021

(direct link to video)


Good programmers are great linear thinkers. We can model our programs’ execution.

The great master of logical, rigorous thinking was John Von Neumann, mathematician. Progenitor of modern computer architecture, formalizer of quantum theory.

When programs join a distributed system, and when we join a team, certainty becomes elusive. Linear thinking is not enough.

Contemporary to Von Neumann was Gregory Bateson, anthropologist. Progenitor of systems thinking, raiser of octopuses.

From stories of these two scientists, Jess draws a collection of patterns from systems thinking that help in code, in software, and in life.


John Von Neumann and Norbert Wiener: From Mathematics to the Technologies of Life and Death: Heims, Steve Joshua: 9780262081054: AmazonSmile: Books

Heims, Steve. Gregory Bateson and the Mathematicians: From Interdisciplinary Interaction to Societal Functions, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 13 (1977):141-159


Written and performed by Jessica Kerr.

Produced by Avdi Grimm.

Cool behind-the-scenes setup video as a reward for scrolling down: