Richard P. Gabriel: The Road Not Taken



  • In this talk, Gabriel will consider how new metaphors for software construction, drawn from areas such as biology, physics, and complexity science, can help us create more appropriate and robust systems.

    Co-hosted by the Computer History Museum


    Richard P. Gabriel , Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Numerous computer researchers and practitioners believe we've come to a wood where two roads diverge: One road calls for us to continue as we have writing unreliable software using inappropriate languages, and debilitating methodologies under the rickety mathematical and engineering metaphors we developed in the 1960s or earlier, and the other begs us to find new metaphors and ways of approaching software to make system building safe, easier, and with respect for our humanity.

    IBM's Autonomic Computing, MIT's Amorphous Computing, the Feyerabend Project, the Biological Framings Workshop-all these are looking beyond current theories in ways reminiscent of Kuhn's paradigm shifts and Feyerabend's counterinduction.

    In this talk, Gabriel looks at the problems and proposed directions for the way less traveled: biology, physics, and complexity science, for example.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.


    Speaker Bio: Richard P. Gabriel

    Richard Gabriel received a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1981, and an MFA in Poetry from Warren Wilson College in 1998.

    He is currently a Distinguished Engineer and chief scientist of a small laboratory at Sun Microsystems, researching the architecture, design, and implementation of extraordinarily large systems as well as development techniques for building them. He is Sun's open source expert, advising the company on community-based strategies.

    Gabriel helped design and implement a variety of dialects of Lisp. He is author of three books with two forthcoming in 2003-2004.

    For extensive information on Richard Gabriel's work and biography please visit:


    Event Logistics


    PARC (formerly Xerox PARC)
    3333 Coyote Hill Road
    Palo Alto, CA


    6:30-7:00pm Registration/Networking
    7:00-9:00pm Program



    Cost (light snacks will be served)
    $15 SDForum members, Computer History Museum members
              and other co-sponsoring organization members (TBA)
    $20 Non-members*
    $25 Non-members* at the door
    * Non-members will receive a coupon for free admission ($15 value) to an SDForum Special Interest Group.

    Pre-registration unavailable. Please register at the door.