Will Everything Always Be Broken?

This piece entitled “Everything Is Broken” describes the dire state of internet security, with major security breaches every other day, with everyone from Russian criminals to The NSA making off with our data.

It was my exasperated acknowledgement that looking for good software to count on has been a losing battle. Written by people with either no time or no money, most software gets shipped the moment it works well enough to let someone go home and see their family. What we get is mostly terrible.

It paints a very depressing picture of an internet held together with sellotape and string, but do you know what it reminds me of?  Replace catastrophic data breaches with fatal accidents, and it reminds me of the railway industry when it had been around for about the same length of time as the internet has, somewhere in the middle of the 19th century.

If you read L.T.C.Rolt’s classic “Red For Danger”, the mid-Victorian railways suffered serious crashes on a regular basis. Primitive signalling systems were vulnerable to human error. Braking systems were crude and ineffective. And flimsy wooden carriages with gas lighting were reduced to matchwood in relatively low-speed collisions and often went up in flames.

But things got better. It took many years, but eventually a combination of legislation and market pressure saw safety taking a much higher priority, and serious crashes are now few and far between.

It’s anyone’s guess what the internet will look like in a century’s time. But it’s entirely possible that netizens of the 22nd century will look back at the data breaches and insecurity of today like we look upon 19th century industry.

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