Aaron Harnly
Simplicity v. Complexity

07 Oct 2017

Listen to this episode on iTunes/Apple Podcasts

Listen to this episode on Android/Google Play

Download .mp3 (60.4M)

Player by Podigee

Show Notes

Topics: EdTech, Computer Science, Machine Learning, Managing Engineers, Social Responsibility, Teamwork, Team Leaderhsip



In this episode we are joined by Aaron Harnly, CTO of Amplify New Curriculum, for a thoughtful conversation circling around many aspects of simplicity and complexity in Computer Science and software engineering. If programs describe how we can arrive at answers, can they adequately model complex real-world processes, like a literacy coach teaching a child to read? Can we in turn contain and explain the complexity of software applications built up over time from many such models, meeting many different requirements? When can dead- simple regression models provide more value than models with thousands of features? Aaron also opens up about his own experiences, describing how an agile transformation transformed his own career, and how his approach to team communication and his contributions to team success have changed as his role changed from engineer, to leader of a team, to leader of all the teams.

Bonus Quote

“Underlying our approach to this subject is our conviction that “computer science” is not a science and that its significance has little to do with computers. The computer revolution is a revolution in the way we think and in the way we express what we think. The essence of this change is the emergence of what might best be called procedural epistemology ­ the study of the structure of knowledge from an imperative point of view, as opposed to the more declarative point of view taken by classical mathematical subjects. Mathematics provides a framework for dealing precisely with notions of “what is.” Computation provides a framework for dealing precisely with notions of “how to.”

- “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs,” Preface to the First Edition

Guest Bio

Aaron Harnly is the CTO of Amplify New Curriculum, a leading education technology company. He leads technology strategy and delivery for Amplify’s digital curriculum, which help hundreds of thousands of teachers and students teach and learn English, science, and math. He has held roles including engineering management, data analytics, algorithm development, and product strategy. Prior to joining Amplify, he taught middle and high school science, and was a researcher in childhood cognitive development and computer science at institutions including Columbia University and Microsoft Research. He lives, works, and plays in Brooklyn, NY.

Additional Topics


  • Host: Mark S. Weiss
  • Intro and Outro Music: “Florida Song” Copyright 2016 by Photographs (Mark S. Weiss). All rights reserved.
  • Ad Intro Music: “Woozy” Copyright 2015 by Photographs (Mark S. Weiss). All rights reserved.
  • All Interview content Copyright 2018 by Using Reflection and Mark S. Weiss. All rights reserved.