Cut and Paste: Product Safety

One of my courses focuses on the “social implications of a computerized society.” And so, we had a reading on an event in which lives were taken by software errors. Look up “Therac-25” if you want to. In any case, I had to write a page “critical summary” of it. I went over a page and was going to add an extra comments block, but decided that wouldn’t be in my better interest. The T.A. who marks my group’s assignments is an ass who doesn’t seem to care about what people say at all. He pretty much gives an automatic 16/20 (that’s fine by me I suppose) without regard for actual marking. I think the only things he cares about are the “technical” marks, rather than marks based on content. So, I’ll just say what I wanted to say here.

I was going to make a comment on how gun manufacturers can be likened to sofware development companies – a gun maker doesn’t pull the trigger, but it’s his product that ends people’s lives – but the analogy doesn’t really fit. The gun maker fully intends for his product to end people’s lives; the software developer presumably does not. The analogy may hold in the case of the gun maker producing a gun that backfires or jams consistently. Obviously, that’s not something you’d want to happen as a gun manufacturer, but usually only because you wouldn’t want to lose money, not for concern of the lives of the gun users.

Such a callous sentiment is disconcerting, but valid in a capitalist society. Software made with intention for something good may turn out bad. But that surely can not be worse than producing something that is always potentially devastating to people’s health (e.g. cigarettes). Then, so long as a disclaimer is provided, shall all be forgiven if someone should die as a result of the product?

Yeah. I think I have a valid point. *pats self on back* Any comments are welcome! I can’t guarantee I will be able to agree with your view on capitalism if that’s what you comment on. And don’t call me an anti-democratic communist – capitalism is NOT democratic. That’s not to say that I completely believe in democracy either. Look up “Swiss secret citizenship vote” (without the quotes) for an example of shameless direct democracy in action.


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