Bad code (2)
(Inspired by this)
Why do computer scientists and engineers still believe their research doesn’t have to be transparent to the public? Because they think what they’re developing belongs to the objects world. In order to get to the objects world, something must not necessarily be largely understandable, it just has to be real. Ideally, the job of scientists and engineers would be to serve as gatekeepers of the objects world, so that everything that gets there can be properly monitored, to make sure that its understandability can be reached, if and when necessary. So – ideally – we wouldn’t have to worry about all objective things, natural or artificial, as long as we can refer to a wise person (that would work for some wise people organization) for further clarifications, when needed.
Of course I’m not going to delve into the ethical intricacies that this way of thinking entails. We all know that the story doesn’t end there, so let me just bring your attention to one point.
There is, even according to a positivistic mindset, a space for freedom and choice. That means not everything fits into the objects world. So hard scientists usually are not offended by the existence of wise people that are not occupied with the objects world, but with the things that do not fit into it. They are not offended, they just feel disconnected. And they feel disconnected, because they strongly believe (and that is something really unnecessary) that the objects world contains (or could be made so that it would contain) everything that’s really stable, everything that lasts, and thus everything that is important. And they believe in this unnecessary proposition because they feel their work would be destroyed or made impossible if people didn’t believe in it. This belief is also decisively supported by the wise people’s organizations, since they were conceived on that premise. If wise people could be organized differently, it wouldn’t be easy for them to continue existing the way they do. But I digress.
Let me clarify this with an example. It is hard to say that a bridge is not an object. Building a bridge involves a lot of choices and alternatives, but they will eventually rest, and the objectivity of the bridge will emerge, clean as a whistle. And to build a bridge will require so much effort and resources, that it lasting a long time is a good thing. A good newspaper article, on the other hand, is not considered for its durability, but for its impact. So newspaper articles have nothing to do with bridges. They do not belong in the objects world (as does the news company that prints them), except as a large amount of printed paper (and the garbage company that has to deal with it every day, very objectively indeed). Most people, of course, believe that the existence of the newspaper article precedes in importance the existence of the infrastructure responsible for delivering it to us everyday. And this is important, to the extent that our freedom is real. But that is just a belief.
Let me get back to the point I’m actually trying to make: computer scientists believe that their research doesn’t have to be transparent to the public because they believe they’re creating objective things. So these things must be understandable only in principle. And to make their conception largely accessible would be like teaching everybody how to make bridges: completely unnecessary and counterproductive. To the extent that computer systems are objective, they do not have to invite the actual participation of their user. So they’re not like newspaper articles, not at all.
Besides, to make all that jargon understandable would be impossible. And the mathematics…
The problem is, the degree of objectivity involved in the development of computer systems is much, much, much smaller than it is usually thought. And without the intense, even though unconscious, participation of the user (who endures the stupidity of these contraptions as if it was normal) they wouldn’t exist. And what are we doing? We are waiting for the objectivity to grow bigger, spontaneously. We are waiting for the scientific field to “mature”, without questioning our strategies: the user must be kept innocent. In the mean time, we keep writing millions of lines of junk code, everyday. We’ve been waiting for more than 60 years, now. The (good? bad?) news is that this process is not converging to a solution. But we keep waiting, because, they say, it has to converge some day. I don’t think this is a very objective reason, but what do I know. Please, don’t tell me there are no alternatives.
And keep your ontologies away from me. Enough with the junk code.
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