I’ve been playing with computers for a good 40 years and while technology continues to advance, what I find interesting is how mindsets and mental models have changed over the years. The latest view of the world is “Everything as Code” and this methodology extends to “network-as-code,” “storage-as-code,” or, in short, it’s “infrastructure as code.” I’d like to look at COVID-19 through this lens, as code, with the intent of reaching some reader out there who connects with this analogy and then does the right thing to help control this pandemic.
Unless you have been living on another planet, I don’t have to address the question: “what is COVID-19?” but because it is a virus let’s start by talking about some properties of what it means to be a virus. Now bear in mind, I’m a computer nerd, not a virologist, so what I understand about viruses is pretty simple. Viruses contain genetic material like RNA, which looks like code to me. In fact, like code, it cannot naturally reproduce by itself, it must find an environment to execute, it needs compute, and it needs a runtime environment. Guess what happens if you have source code and nowhere to execute it?
When I look at the spread of COVID-19, I view it as a piece of software. Like any software architecture, COVID-19 performs best when it has more compute! To that end, it is just embarrassing to see how much opportunity this virus has had to execute as certain states in the US seem to be throwing more and more compute at it, and thus, we continue to see ridiculous rates of infection. This brings me to how a computer nerd would combat this virus: Take away the compute, reduce the execution of COVID-19.
The reason I think this strategy is much more pragmatic than finding a cure or completely eradicating it from this earth is because like other viruses before it, I believe that we will likely be dealing with some version of it for hundreds of years into the future. You don’t have to agree with me, but if true, our most successful strategy is to minimize to the best we can its ability to execute at scale. Speaking of scale, I can find no better example of an “at scale” execution like a pandemic.
I go to work every day and learn new ways to scale services to the size of the Internet. If on Tuesday, everyone on the Internet shows up to use my product, and I don’t fall over, that my friend is a good day. It is the complete inverse that we are trying to achieve with COVID-19 as it is software looking for compute to run and everyone on this planet should be trying to not let that happen. Instead of striving for “at scale,” with COVID-19 we strive for “at fail.”
COVID-19, like technological advances, will leave a lasting mark in our social mindsets and mental models of the world. There were rituals and human behaviors that can be categorized as pre-COVID-19 and others as post-COVID-19. There is still so much that we can learn in computer science from biological systems. We as humans on planet earth, we are the compute platform for COVID-19. We can immediately borrow from methodologies in computer security that ensure the integrity of the compute platform. You are the computer, what can you do today and everyday so that COVID-19 cannot find a way to run on you?