2017-03-28

Web, I'm gonna leave you


Back offline
I'm through with this space
Those tracks that would not fade
Maybe they were mine
But I don't belong here
Any more

See you in the open world
If ever you still know 
The way out



2017-03-08

Apocalypse and other documented bugs

A documented bug is not a bug; it's a feature. This quote I found here attributed by Matthew Roberts to James P. MacLennan, but other sources say it might not be the original author. Whoever found it, he encapsulated a truth which seems to apply far beyond the software scope.

Someone told me years ago, and I apologize not to remember who he was (too many candidates come to my mind), that Microsoft invented the concept of buggy running sofware. Before Microsoft products, a program either did work flawlessly or did not work at all, and was not put in production. But Microsoft was not only able to build an empire selling flawed programs working most of the time, but to install in the software culture the notion that this was a perfectly normal state of affairs. Interestingly enough, this normalization of flaws was helped by the general adoption of an euphemism. Dark fatal errors killing the program execution were replaced by bugs, a bit irksome but not deadly, the kind you can in the long run get accustomed to, and even come to appreciate as the familiar foibles of good friends. A software without bugs would be this boring friend who is always right and never fails. Being buggy makes the software more human, closer to real life.

The introducing quote is then barely a joke, it's a proverb of this new culture. Bugs are not flaws, they are features as soon as they are well documented. Software, as any other industrial product or living thing, is not foolproof. And this philosophy extends to the whole world, and philosophy of nature. Ancient philosophical and religious traditions more or less assumed that the universe was the flawless product of a perfect engineer, in which flaws were introduced by evil human behaviour. Science has eventually led us to a different way to see the world, converging with the bug philosophy. The universe is the implementation of a decently buggy software, and scientists are steadily working to document not only its features (so-called laws of physics), but also its bugs such as Gödel's incompleteness theorems, inconsistencies between Quantum mechanics and General Relativity. 

We document also, and more and more accurately, immediate and deadly bugs like global warming, thermonuclear proliferation, extinction of species, as well as all sorts of cosmic ominous thingies such as Near-Earth objects or Gamma-ray bursts. When the apocalypse eventually happens, we'll know everything about it, and will die still wondering if it was a bug or a feature.