Disasters, both natural and man-made, are on the rise. Indeed, a catastrophe of one sort or another seems always to be unfolding somewhere on the planet. We have entered into a veritable Age of Catastrophes which have grown both larger and more complex and now routinely very widespread in scope.
The old days of the geographically isolated industrial accidents, of the sinking of a Titanic or the explosion of a Hindenburg, together with their isolated causes and limited effects, are over. Now, disasters on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill or the Japan tsunami and nuclear reactor accident, threaten to engulf large swaths of civilization.
These efforts are breaking down. Nature and Civilization have become so intertwined they can no longer be separated. Natural disasters, moreover, are becoming increasingly more difficult to differentiate from “man-made.”
I still remember a wonderful presentation by Damian Conway a number of years ago about all of the great ways Perl 6 could turn into whatever domain specific language you needed it to be. It was beautiful, I was awestruck. I’ve always enjoyed Perl as a language. But I walked out of that presentation thinking “That was so beautiful, and I don’t want it anywhere near my business.” Because the last thing I need is software written in a language I can’t hire anyone else to maintain.
At some level that’s what I think has happened to Perl in general. I never liked Python much, until I got forced to use it on a new team. Now I’m convinced that it has a really distinct advantage — there aren’t too many ways to write Python, so an experienced Python developer can figure out code pretty quickly. But Perl programs are frequently art pieces that take a lot of effort to truly grok.
From the foreword to “The Unix Haters Handbook” by Donald Norman, author of previous works like “The Trouble with Unix: The User Interface is Horrid“, and “The Design of Everyday Things“, and a fellow at Apple and IDEO.