The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Debugging only gets harder with the passing of time

The story resurfaced this week in connection with the Germanwings crash. The standard causes of plane crashes, as Steve Coast explained, have been largely eliminated by the imposition of sensible rules or engineering fixes. Windows no longer crack at the corners. Doors no longer blow out. What remains are the oblique, non-obvious problems. ‘As we find more rules to fix more things we are encountering tail events. We fixed all the main reasons aircraft crash a long time ago… So, we are left with the less and less probable events.’ The world’s problems will, in short, get weirder. The seemingly sensible fixes we now add to the rule book will now increasingly run into unintended consequences: you can install impenetrable cockpit doors on the assumption that they will protect pilots from terrorists, only to find that they also prevent the captain (and passengers) from regaining the cockpit.

Why plane crashes are getting weirder – and if we’re lucky, other problems will too » The Spectator

I never thought of this, but it's obvious in hind-sight—all the easy problems have been fixed and what we're left with is weird interactions that lead to computer programs that occasionally crash only on Wednesdays.

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