Surf the wave

Choleric Miasma


I spent some time reading Dreams of Iron and Steel : Seven Wonders of the Nineteenth Century, from the Building of the London Sewers to the Panama Canal recently. The work includes a brief history of seven distinct engineering challenges and the people and approaches to conquer them. The chapter on the construction of the London sewers highlighted the debate that raged about the cause of cholera that routinely ravaged the citizens of London. One James Snow collected significant evidence that cholera was in fact caused by water borne fecal bacteria. The prevailing view of the day was that cholera sprung from a miasma.

Similar debate occurred over the cause of yellow fever when building the Panama canal.

When reading this, my immediate reaction was "how could anyone think this?".

When viewed through this very lens, what will our ancestors perceptions be of current computing practice? What aspects will be viewed most differently? Our approaches to design? Construction?

For all the change that has been wrought in computing, what paradigm shifts have yet to occur that will render our current practice as misguided as was the presumed cause of cholera?

Are we living in a time of computational miasma?