The cloudy future of IT

What is the common point between a computer, a VW diesel, a nuclear plant and me cooking, playing bass or coding?

My question is both what is an amateur and a professional, and why he does matter that knowledge in IT is in a way of death by kludges and complexity that makes it indistinguishable from evil practices of proprietary firms.

Most people when asked about who invented Free/Open Source Sofware (FOSS for convenience) tends to either quote the extrovert knows as Richard Stallman (FSF) or the more invisble K. Thompson and how the first UNIX sources contaminated the sane students of Berkeley where LSD was also developed at the same time (I am sure it is no coincidence). 

I strongly disagree. The true genius is Bill Gates in 1976 he crafted the expectation of IP protection. The beauty of the letter to the hobbyist may make me cry a (crocodile) tear. It is the invention of proprietary software, a realm in which the user is denied to understand how things works. But also the right for the computer industry to derogate to any legal and financial obligation in commercial contract.

It is justified by a diffused "pain of the creator stolen by parasits".

My french heart double its speed rate. This music is such an ode to the talk of the Baron de Beaumarchais justifying the need of creating a special kind of protection for the artists. Yeah, poor Baron de Beaumarchais. A noble from the ancien régime smuggling weapons to the USA under Louis XVI, than voting against the privileges, than begging the National Assembly to reinstate privileges for the poor authors.

Göbbels first rules: the bigger the bullshit, the better.


I learnt VHDL, SPICE, MATLAB, Assembly 68K, graph theory, algebrae, electronics, and even how electrons behave in semi conductors . I drew and learnt how to design and program interfaces 20 years ago.  At the Silicium layer.

Nowadays, I am a coder.   And something is bugging me.

I am the kind of person that prefers to keep every evils in their bottles. One of the devil I hate is ignorance. I am a control freak. I think I am professional because that is what differentiate me from an amateur: control of the costs, and their is no control without understanding.

 Let me explain you why I don't believe in self driven cars: because nuclear plants should not be automated.

First it is epistemological: I think that as much the myth of the golem, the mechanical turk, or Galathea's myth, we all have a fascination for creating life. And so far it has always failed. I don't say it will always fail forever. I say that the expectancy to reach a goal = 2 times the period since the beginning of trying. You will check the average of my expectancy will be the exact time of completion.

I love to have tricks to be right. Logical thinking and understanding, having a consistent representation of a problem is a nice trick.

So my first almost tautological argument is I think it will take 2500 more years before human beings are able to create life so that my predictions whatever the topics are always consistent with observable facts. (yes, it is a tad of a fallacy, proof by the self biting snake)

Second and more important. If you are not scared by a market full of liquidities, bubbles and the recession, let's remind a calm talk I had in Paris with Michel Volles.

This guy had been consulted for the automation of nuclear plant, and he strongly advocated against full automation like in japan or in an Airbus.

He says; well software can have bugs. It is better if human are used to do stuff in a semi automatic way (that do not expose them of course) so that they know how to adapt.
Even crude mechanics has got troubles. But when problem comes instead of handling layers of complexity they still know how it works. And you wish that nuclear plant operators control tightly and have a great confidence in themselves more than the software.

Well, France being full of nuclear plants, and having grown up during cold war, I am a little more receptive than average on the topic.

What is the relationship with self driven cars?

At a lower scale than nuclear plant, self driven cars are life threatening. They can reach the kinetic energy of a 75mm round, and gasoil is fucking exothermic and dense in energy.

Let's talk about trust.

Do you trust stuff you don't understand? I don't. In the name of science I nearly killed myself by being clumsy and doing experimentation with either highly energetic electromagnetic beams that if the claims for electromagnetic pollution is true, I am dead or bacteria.

I trusted my books, and people dying stupidly (like Nobel) for my safety. Stupid deaths by over trusting yourself are paving the road of science.

Would car manufacturer lie to you regarding the software they put in their car.

Can you trust Nissan, VW, General Motors to not tamper with the software in their car in a way that could lie?

Oh. You cannot.

And cars are really frightening in terms of potential arm it can do. So what about insurances? Will Lloyds, Munchen Re will accept to cover this risk?

Insurance is the modern license to kill, mathematician providing enough firepower of layers to claim that death was NOT avoidable by the virtue of probable chains of causality covered by obligation of means in the contract. Thus, someone is dead, but you don't go to jail. You pay someone, that will pay the lawyers and the expected claims of victims.

Have you read a software licence?

What is the common point between FOSS and the industry?

They both decline any legal liability concerning the consequence of the use of the software.

java license either went as far as explicitly denying people to use java for medical appliance...

And this is where I think I am having a professional opinion. As long as software industry refuse to see itself bounded by the legal liability of considering that they are responsible of the correct behavior of their product there is a problem.

The more we rely on incorrect stacks that cannot be covered by any insurance or true guaranties it works then the effect of the non predictability rises.

The financial effect is clear: it is not possible to estimate a reasonable insurance cover for software industry in case a self driven cars kills someone. Companies will be liable since they did not do everything possible to guarantee death would be impossible.

Is planning 1 death out of 1 millions instead of 10 000 indiscriminates deaths per year better? Ksss, you have to be a real psychopath to know you are gonna kill 1 to save 9999... Plus, in face of the law you still premeditated death. Why this one? Who gave the software manufacturer the right to chose who are going to die and to live? In the absurd hypothesis they finally achieve self driving cars, I will call out these people has psychopathic murderers anyway.

But you know, I am simple man (yes, Lynnird skynnird shite, I am a tad soft inside, U know?).

I used to tweak anythings in the house and like engines, computers, electric boards, radios, electric pinballs, my bike, cooking ....

And  I learnt. I could understand and control. That maybe one of the reason I love my bike. I don't fear to break anything far from civilization. I can repair almost anything, and predict the worst. I have control. I trust it.

I love cooking, because I did not obsoleted. I love music, because it is all about not caring about the technic and discipline, I loved understanding that the shape and geometry of things on an electronic boards related to their functions or side effects.

There is one domain though that bugs me: it is IT industry.

You see I see a lot of analog organization that have the same constraints  as IT and don't fail:
- entertainment delivers their show on time (creativity, variety in size, competitiveness, heavy requirements/logistic, heavy specifications);
- cooking has incorporated a lot of foreign tastes and technics in the last decades, still, the knowledge are stable, and they don't make customers sign an agreement it will be okay if they die of a food intoxication;
- to survive extreme condition and a slow but steady decrease in quality since decades, people reverted to using the most simple form of bike as used 1 century ago, this is the rise of the fixie;
-  every industry so far is facing technical (financial) debt forcing them to do incorrect things, like the aeronautical industry making their plane inspected in less pushy places. Still, if unluckily an accident were to happen, the industry would feel hurt, and bad. They would feel guilt and empathy for their users.
- computer industry have been consistently over promising and under delivering: who remember the promises of IBM in 1942 to have a mechanical typesetter that would translate without a mistake what you dictate? Me. The ultimate OS where you write once and compile everywhere? .... The standard that will stand the test of time?

No seriously this one piss me off.

Imagine you are a small company that invest in the future. A middle size business.

You buy an expensive automate for doing industry standard metal shaping. Your investment may require 30 years of use. You choose the RIGHT technology: RS232, floppy disk.

Now, 30 years later, all these technology disappear in the name of so called simplification that are the opposite of any simplification.

USB, xmpp, firewire, pci... They solve some picky problem (like dynamic resource allocation of IO and IRQ), but at the cost of levels of indirections, half respected norms half specified ...

I mean, seriously, secured data on an USB drive?

Just to be a USB client, you have to have an insanely complex stack of code and wires on your board. It requires highly privileged access on the computer server side, AND you are on a broadcasted signal, thus every one on the USB ring can spy on you. And thanks to the diminishing quality of capacitors in computer, it could even tap on other signals.

Progress my ass.

Programming low level interface for RS232 bare bone is easier than USB and it involves less proxy.

The limits were not electrics or technical. It just that additionnal graved silicium costs less than a 1$ connector.

And while the psychopathic software/hardware industry pushes for always lower cycle of "progress", real industries having less liquidities on the market (thus less investment) are increasing their cycles for renewing their tools. Including their hardware and software. It is legitimate a windows 3.1 from 1992 can still be running in an airport. Fuck IT industry, wake up!

And how can software industry not collapse of being so far from the real need of the market?

Except the fact it requires to lack a little bit of "economical" lack of empathy, I may hazard that the 2007 crisis is not over and we have bubbles everywhere one of them being in the education and exploding right now.

First things, how do their survive their cash burn rates without tangible proof of their positive impacts on the activity of their customers?

Well, it is called Venture Capitalism. The market is full of cheap money, so they invest irrationally in a market for which regulations are scarce (safety, audit) and where just a minimal return investment is expected. You just want to outperform the very low interest rates of the national bonds.

In regard to the market, IT require very few investments: almost only brain. KPEX = 0. And benefits are rents. It makes projections of expected benefits very easy.

70 years ago there was a war. Brilliant people were called as officers, soldiers, nurses ... And people on battle front tends to die.

The baby boomer that resulted were caught in an aspiration of skilled workers whatever the education was. But the very small differential resulted in huge difference. My father son of a mason that had good grades in primary school was almost guarantied to be a surgeon if he kept up the good works and he did.

The climax of this era is 1968. A lot of things happened this year around the world. A pacific revolution of hopeful hippies that will become sharkiest marketers of the world.

Our parents experienced an artificial situation where education as a social ladder was working because the competition on the market side of the demand was fierce. And strong of their experience, they indebted the 3 next generations in costly heavily subsidized education system (be it private or public). For Europeans it is public debt, USA private debts. And they brainwashed kids around the world with "passe ton bac d'abord... better have your exams if you don't want to end up like this"

The problem is the education has been saturated. And the system has failed in both cases to give an incentive for a fair and square competition. When the market is saturated, the criteria for selection become arbitrary: sex, look, place of birth, age... weirdly enough never costs. Else given both equally talented coders one a black muslim girl and an the other one an ivy league student, you would pick the one you can pay objectively less. Thus, given the discrimination, if the agent on the market of human resources in IT were rational they would pick the cheapest one that is equally talented. Thus the market would always tend towards less discrimination. Which is not the case... 

Maybe also, our capitalism may not be able to reform itself for better work organization like toyota. Maybe the revolution of global mass education is hitting right now. And maybe it does not look like the promised land: while the kids of the masses were studying, it seems the kids of the wealthiest were also studying. So, proletarian just became pro-net-arian. Education system does not resorb social inequality it let them unchanged in a shifting world. Like a never ending screw, globally moving, locally invariant. A vast majority of the society have to work for the benefit of in an inharmoniously shared minority.

So every one blindingly force their belief of people in a bubble to the economy. Something of russian doll. Where every bubble has a bubble in it or could lead to bubbles.

- people with diploma expect their remuneration to not reflect the absence of  scarcity of the market;
- capitalism expect people with the knowledge of the financial system to agree on an unfair sharing of the values (people with education can do math and be troubling);
- customers expect things to work and respect education, else it would be unfair they loose 10 years of their life expectancy doing their job for 25% of the wages of coder;
- companies expect by screwing their margins in reaching more customers on a market already depressed it will help them make sustainable profits;
- financial market expect a raise of their dividends while the world is in recession and is betting on a global improvement since 8 years;
- IT seems to not notice that the 40$ / barrel of oil when there is a war close to the biggest producers in the world advocates for thinking very hard in terms of watt per actual watt gained and not flops. As long as we create our thermometer for measuring our efficiency based on how much we efficiently loose CPU cycles, we are dooomed.
- wealthy people expect the collectivity to leave them alone and not demand anything to them in terms of social responsability... while they expect to be granted even more power.

Collectively I am more than concerned. But who am I to claim I am the only person not being crazy? Everybody knows that thinking you are normal is the early signs of paranoid delirium.

Individually, I am beginning to think about opening a shop called "introuvables" specializing in dealing cheap products of quality by making a network of franchise sending each other container with local products: cheap polars/wine vs maple syrup/cheese... Just the introuvables. In some place it will be 1 product, in other 100. A place where to find cheap AND good product according to your market.

Or a restaurant called "la Cantine Luddite". Cheap huge quantity of food with taste that requires hours of preparation and cheap ingredients like boeuf bourguigon, pot au feu, couscous .... and go for serving as in an english pub (collective portions to diminsh costs and collective serving and incitation for people to share). No computer allowed, all smartphones being hacked in permanent DoS with a sophisticated electronic appliance called heavy hammer.

Or a one man show.

You know, I don't care. If it turns that bad, I can still do my show in the street as a living. I'd rather be an happy beggar if events required it than an overstressed soon to die from infarctus modern worker.

I guess feeling confident in your capacity to adapt is a requirement for adaptation.

Yes, the future of IT maybe cloudy, but mine is not.

You still can sing in the rain and lough at clouds.


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