Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle-K

First of all, could we talk about an industry as a person? I am really starting to worry about Mr Software. Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K.

There are many smart people making software today. We got some geniuses don’t we? We make beaucoup bucks writing scribblies all day long. It really is the perfect crime. However, as flies swarm to shit, we have these MIT grads buzzing around financial institutions. We have geniuses with sun tans making guidance software for programs like “Drop it like its hot, Mr Gaddafi.”

As anyone who has filled out their taxes, or had to muddle through any government jungle, might have noticed that computers are now part of every little thing in your life. In Japan, they have toilets with more computing power than fresh air. Cars now have millions of lines of code, and when you consider how high bug densities can be per thousand lines of code, it might make you press the wrong peddle out of absolute defeat. Might as well end it now, before the software does!

Software is in a unique position in society. It can do stuff, and it’s everywhere. It touches the lives of everyone. However, we have these blokes deciding for themselves that being rich is cool, and it’s best to write software that skims the cream off the top of some morally reprehensible if not murderous dealings. Mr Software, your wife, she is not a hat.

You begin to wonder how these great minds can get by doing these bad and, at best, useless things. Are they evil? Were they conceived as vampires from Hitler’s blood? I really do not think so. Because we make software in context. We are a shape that is molded by the world. It is just that some people forget what shape they became.

Phil Zimbardo’s prison experiment (http://www.prisonexp.org/) demonstrated this artistic shaping of our selves. People really are natural born Thespians, and give them the chance, they will play the part you give them. You should visit some of the videos of the prison experiment, they will floor you. They are endlessly fascinating.

Even when we decide our shape is drooping and that we need to straighten ourselves, we have people like Stanly Miligram (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) telling you that when the going gets tough, you will chicken out. But this is ok, because most do. I think the smart people call it ‘Rationalisation’.

So in the words of mighty Lenin, what is to be done? The world has so many problems to solve, how can we get people solving them. I mean, sure the MIT genius working for a financial company is solving problems. I guess, Mr Software, constipation is a problem too.

4 thoughts on “Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle-K

  1. I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. I could hardly measure the kids playing basketball at the high school with the same yardstick as the ones making millions and living large in the NBA. I don’t think most programmers are rich (I’m certainly not) nor do I think most software winds up powering the financial juggernaut or making fart sounds come out of phones.

    That said, I think we all smell something unsavory around programming. I think some of it is systemic. We aren’t a wholesome and welcoming bunch because we have these magic boxes that seem to tell us if we’re right or not. What a great way to engorge an ego! So almost all of us turn into arrogant jerks, regardless of pay scale.

    Another part of it is probably that this enterprise is inherently one of expression. You get better at expression by expressing yourself, whether or not you have anything to say. To solve a problem requires both knowing a solution and being able to implement it. We spend a lot of time learning how to implement, and much less time on learning how to solve problems. So we have a plethora of programmers who have the ability to encode a solution but no real ability to discover one. That’s why I think we have so many web frameworks and ORMs.

    Do you think we’re all ethically responsible for useless software, or bloatware? It’s not the same thing as defrauding or endangering the public, is it?

    • i think you precisely got it. It is systemic and it would be easy to blame individuals. I would not blame the programming community for the system. However I believe it is our duty to try to remove it. The first step is realizing something is wrong

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