Covid: Microsoft “Cleaned Up” Original Imperial College Simulation Software That Locked Down the World

An experienced senior software engineer, Sue Denim, has written a devastating review of Dr. Neil Ferguson’s Imperial college epidemiological model that set the world on a our current lock down course of action.

She appears quite qualified.

My background. I wrote software for 30 years. I worked at Google between 2006 and 2014, where I was a senior software engineer working on Maps, Gmail and account security. I spent the last five years at a US/UK firm where I designed the company’s database product, amongst other jobs and projects.

She explains how the code she reviewed isn’t actually Ferguson’s but instead a modified version from a team trying to clean it up in a face saving measure.

The code. It isn’t the code Ferguson ran to produce his famous Report 9. What’s been released on GitHub is a heavily modified derivative of it, after having been upgraded for over a month by a team from Microsoft and others. This revised codebase is split into multiple files for legibility and written in C++, whereas the original program was “a single 15,000 line file that had been worked on for a decade” (this is considered extremely poor practice).

She then discusses a fascinating aspect of this model. You never know what you’ll get!

Non-deterministic outputs. Due to bugs, the code can produce very different results given identical inputs. They routinely act as if this is unimportant….

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