A wretched position in a possible future where the Singularity
never happens. Programmer archaeologists spend their short, miserable
lives maintaining 10,000 year old legacy systems. After a few dozen
centuries any system is going to be a little bit crufty, but after
10,000 years any change, no matter how small, is going to break something
It won't even be possible to rebuild the whole system from
scratch every so often just to verify that you still have all of the
source code. There will undoubtedly be huge, steaming piles of
circular dependencies that completely preclude the notion of a fresh
Think about what this really means, any little hack the poor
coder puts into the software that displays the day's cafeteria menu choices
on his bedroom wall has the possibility of killing all of his friends.
That's because he doesn't have the slightest clue that the guy who wrote the hull
penetration detection code was lazier than a good programmer should be.
The guy who wrote the hull breach detection code needed a way to get input to
one of his modules that he had carelessly coded himself into a corner
on. He couldn't add any more parameters to the current function signature
because his linker was stupid and it would break his old code. So he
simply added a few calls into a personal library that he had for displaying
stuff on his walls to handle a couple of little processing steps.
Then he died. Then the next programmer who owned maintenance of
that code died. Then the next. Recurse on the previous statement
for a while.
Now, 6500 years later, our poor programmer archaeologist adds some
cool explosion effects to his visual interface. Because he's a young
hotshot hacker he does this by modifying the underlying code rather than
tweaking a configuration parameter. Unfortunately, this
results in the carelessly written hull code seeing an image of the ship with
holes in the hull. It immediately seals off the affected areas of the
ship and turns off the life-support.
Then it steadfastly refuses to believe any other system in the ship
that tries to tell it that there are living people in there and that they
are going to die if it won't turn the life-support back on. It thinks
there is something wrong with the other systems that is making them report
bad data since it can clearly see that there are holes in the hull of the ship.
Humans occasionally need to start over.
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