Manual Apocalepsy 911

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911 call – Zombie Apocalypse

Please select an option. Choose an option Please wait, fetching the form. Power to the People? Intrado programmers had set a threshold for how high the counter could go. They picked a number in the millions. Shortly before midnight on April 10, the counter exceeded that number, resulting in chaos. Because the counter was used to generate a unique identifier for each call, new calls were rejected.

Nobody knew what was happening. Dispatch centers in Washington, California, Florida, the Carolinas, and Minnesota, serving 11 million Americans, struggled to make sense of reports that callers were getting busy signals. Not long ago, emergency calls were handled locally. Outages were small and easily diagnosed and fixed. The rise of cellphones and the promise of new capabilities—what if you could text ? For the first time, there could be such a thing as a national outage. There have now been four in as many years. 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. She became known for her report on the Therac, a radiation-therapy machine that killed six patients because of a software error. Software is different. Just by editing the text in a file somewhere, the same hunk of silicon can become an autopilot or an inventory-control system. Our standard framework for thinking about engineering failures—reflected, for instance, in regulations for medical devices—was developed shortly after World War II, before the advent of software, for electromechanical systems.

The idea was that you make something reliable by making its parts reliable say, you build your engine to withstand 40, takeoff-and-landing cycles and by planning for the breakdown of those parts you have two engines. The software did exactly what it was told to do.

In fact it did it perfectly. The reason it failed is that it was told to do the wrong thing. Software failures are failures of understanding, and of imagination. Intrado actually had a backup router, which, had it been switched to automatically, would have restored service almost immediately.

Putin and the Apocalypse by Dina Khapaeva - Project Syndicate

This is the trouble with making things out of code, as opposed to something physical. T he attempts now underway to change how we make software all seem to start with the same premise: Code is too hard to think about. Technological progress used to change the way the world looked—you could watch the roads getting paved; you could see the skylines rise. Today you can hardly tell when something is remade, because so often it is remade by code. The car is a computer you can sit inside of. The steering wheel and pedals might as well be keyboard keys.

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Like everything else, the car has been computerized to enable new features. When it controls the steering, it can keep you in your lane as you start to drift, or guide you into a parking space.

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If you tried, a car might weigh 40, pounds, an immovable mass of clockwork. Software has enabled us to make the most intricate machines that have ever existed. And yet we have hardly noticed, because all of that complexity is packed into tiny silicon chips as millions and millions of lines of code. As programmers eagerly poured software into critical systems, they became, more and more, the linchpins of the built world—and Dijkstra thought they had perhaps overestimated themselves.

What made programming so difficult was that it required you to think like a computer. The strangeness of it was in some sense more vivid in the early days of computing, when code took the form of literal ones and zeros. But these systems have become so complicated that hardly anyone can keep them straight in their head. In September , Jean Bookout was driving on the highway with her best friend in a Toyota Camry when the accelerator seemed to get stuck.

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She tried the brakes but they seemed to have lost their power. As she swerved toward an off-ramp going 50 miles per hour, she pulled the emergency brake. The car left a skid mark feet long before running into an embankment by the side of the road. The passenger was killed. Bookout woke up in a hospital a month later.

The incident was one of many in a nearly decade-long investigation into claims of so-called unintended acceleration in Toyota cars. It was during litigation of the Bookout accident that someone finally found a convincing connection. Michael Barr, an expert witness for the plaintiff, had a team of software experts spend 18 months with the Toyota code, picking up where NASA left off.

According to The New York Times , it was the first of many similar cases against Toyota to bring to trial problems with the electronic throttle-control system, and the first time Toyota was found responsible by a jury for an accident involving unintended acceleration. The parties decided to settle the case before punitive damages could be awarded. T here will be more bad days for software. It's important that we get better at making it, because if we don't, and as software becomes more sophisticated and connected—as it takes control of more critical functions—those days could get worse.

The problem is that programmers are having a hard time keeping up with their own creations. Since the s, the way programmers work and the tools they use have changed remarkably little. There is a small but growing chorus that worries the status quo is unsustainable. He told me that while he was at Microsoft, he arranged an end-to-end study of Visual Studio, the only one that had ever been done.

For a month and a half, he watched behind a one-way mirror as people wrote code. How do they think? The findings surprised him. And one of the things that I found out in this study is more than 98 percent of it is completely irrelevant. All this work had been put into this thing, but it missed the fundamental problems that people faced.

And the biggest one that I took away from it was that basically people are playing computer inside their head. John Resig had been noticing the same thing among his students. Resig is a celebrated programmer of JavaScript—software he wrote powers over half of all websites—and a tech lead at the online-education site Khan Academy. Why was it so hard to learn to program? The essential problem seemed to be that code was so abstract. Writing software was not like making a bridge out of popsicle sticks, where you could see the sticks and touch the glue.

When you wanted to change the behavior of the program, be it a game, or a website, or a simulation of physics, what you actually changed was text. So the students who did well—in fact the only ones who survived at all—were those who could step through that text one instruction at a time in their head, thinking the way a computer would, trying to keep track of every intermediate calculation.

Resig, like Granger, started to wonder if it had to be that way. Computers had doubled in power every 18 months for the last 40 years. The fact that the two of them were thinking about the same problem in the same terms, at the same time, was not a coincidence.

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