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Sunday, February 29, 2004

Digital Trust
Wired is carrying a story about how Microsoft's buggy operating system has ruined every vision of the future ever conceived. Okay, maybe I'm reading between the lines, but if you ask anyone if they want a computer flying their plane, they'll reply: "Are you kidding? My desktop computer crashes three times a day!"

When someone states that "It's not imaginable to have a drone airplane full of passengers," you know they say this because the public at large simply does not trust computers and they aren't expected to in the near future. We don't trust them to be stable, we don't trust them to be secure, and we certainly don't trust them with our lives. Despite the fact that toaster ovens and battleships all rely on computers, the public perception is that desktop operating systems aren't trustworthy and handing your life over to a computer is inconceivable. Could that be the fault of the company who owns 90+% of the desktops in the world?

Every sci-fi movie and Asimov novel has computers running with full trust - they drive our cars, cook our meals, clean our homes and protect us. The fictional characters seem to trust them implicitly. How did that happen? Was Rosie never out of commission for the weekend because of a driver conflict? Sure, there have been spectacular failures, but even HAL's problems didn't ground space flight for very long - they were back in deep space in under 9 years.

It seems to me that if we're going to get a future where we trust computers to fly planes or perform complex surgeries, it's going to be based on operating systems with dyed-in-the-wool fans and fanatics, not begrudging accepters.
:: posted by Doug, 1:00 PM

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