Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

Evolutionary Systems for Software

Aaron Longwell (USAID, Afghanistan)
2:35pm3:15pm Thursday, July 18, 2019
Secondary topics:  Customer Centered

Who is this presentation for?

Architects, CTOs, lead engineers, anyone who thinks big thoughts about software



Prerequisite knowledge

Although not really a technical talk, attendees should be familiar with core ideas of software engineering and architecture. And you'll need to have taken a course on evolution at some point in school.

What you'll learn

We take ourselves too seriously. Our focus on efficiency and order blind us to real opportunities for innovation.


This talk will go will beyond the ideas of iterative design and agile and dive into the guts of modern evolutionary biology to see what software communities can learn from the natural world. We’ll focus on how biological principles like the evolutionary landscape, fitness functions and robustness apply to software and business. Finally we’ll introduce the idea of degeneracy, which in biology refers to multiple different structures which can each perform the same function. In nature, biologists believe degeneracy is a key prerequisite for adaptation and innovation. In software, it’s something we have historically actively avoided (see: DRY). But today’s most innovative teams—those who embraced microservices and then serverless—are allowing data and functionality to be repeated throughout their infrastructure. Gasp! The inefficiency of it all! This talk will reveal the reasons why these new approaches are working. Attendees should come away re-thinking what it means to be an engineer or an architect and with a new appreciation for diversity, randomness and junior developers.

Photo of Aaron Longwell

Aaron Longwell

USAID, Afghanistan

Aaron Longwell is the lead technical adviser to a USAID justice sector support project in Afghanistan. In his 20-year career as an open source engineer and leader he has worked with Fortune 500 companies, startups, mom-and-pops and everything in between. As the CTO at Culture Foundry, Aaron led the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes’ migrations to the cloud. As CTO at Claremont Information Systems, Aaron led the data science and engineering teams development of property valuation products. Today, he is an active member of the Go community, and is the maintainer of multiple Go packages

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