Rant Against the Machine

Rant Against the Machine – book idea…Please read

Posted in Technology Rants by ratmadmin on May 21, 2009

Software is ubiquitous. It permeates many facets of our daily lives. We take for granted that when we enter a dark room and hit the light switch, the lights go on. But, the same cannot be said for software. In fact, devices, processes, and programs relying on software do not work consistently enough to be taken for granted to always work.

Generally, technology is intermittent at best. It works most of the time, but not enough to be counted upon to always work. Technology is full of holes, ways to break it and break into it.

How many times does a device, or a program running on one’s computer, works in one instance and then in another instance stops working, for no apparent reason. You work on your computer all day long, go to sleep, wake up, go to your computer to continue working and the same program you were using the day before does not work. It’s the “tooth fairy” in reverse. Instead of a quarter under the pillow, you get a bug in your software.

Most disciplines that play an important role in a modern society have barriers to entry. An attorney must take a Bar exam, a CPA takes the CPA test. A medical doctor goes through years of training, schooling and tests. Yet anyone can be a software developer, just get out of bed and turn on a computer. Given that in our modern society we have come to rely on software, currently there really aren’t any institutionalized standards that hold a piece of software accountable to be of a certain level of quality. This is very dangerous.

As someone who has developed complex software for over 20 years, I can unequivocally state that we are teenagers in an adult world. Too often, the public just accepts the inferior quality and bad interface design in their electronic devices that utilize software with an attitude of “well that’s the way it is”. They would never stand for the same degree of reliability in other tools that they use. If one’s car worked the way software worked, we may not always get to where we wanted to go. If airplanes broke down as often as software breaks down, the public would be outraged, lawsuits would be flying, and regulators would force airplane manufacturer’s to fix the problems. Then why do we not hold software companies to the same degree of accountability?

This is not to say that there is not some very good software out there, of very high quality and accountability. We did get to the moon. TV’s work most of the time. ATM machines will dispense money most of the time. But, there are also some very serious problems that have occurred as a result of inferior software programs, such as the inability of software to prevent viruses from implanting themselves, or networks purposefully being inundated with server requests crippling communications as has been demonstrated by various modern day military conflicts with the use of Cyber warfare. There are a host of other security related issues resulting from bad software.

I feel compelled to write this in order to make the public aware that we better take action soon rather than wait until the equivalent of a 9/11 attack on our technology infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be this way. The public should demand security, accountability and quality.