I Need a Drink

Today in San Francisco, I got an emergency alert on my iPhone warning me about high temps in the area, and encouraging me to drink water and check on my neighbors. It’s 80 degrees. Maybe it was a system bug. Maybe my iPhone is overly cautious. Either way, the alert (along with the twenty or so phone notifications I’ve gotten since) serves as reminder that our lives are increasingly dominated by software. In addition to being pretty irritating, that can be pretty dangerous. From James Somers in The Atlantic: The Coming Software Apocalypse: “It’s been said that software is ‘eating the world.’ More and more, critical systems that were once controlled mechanically, or by people, are coming to depend on code. This was perhaps never clearer than in the summer of 2015, when on a single day, United Airlines grounded its fleet because of a problem with its departure-management system; trading was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange after an upgrade; the front page of The Wall Street Journal’s website crashed; and Seattle’s 911 system went down again, this time because a different router failed. The simultaneous failure of so many software systems smelled at first of a coordinated cyberattack. Almost more frightening was the realization, late in the day, that it was just a coincidence.” Checking on your router is the new checking on your neighbor.

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