Information technology is broken

To the trouble of my surroundings I am going on at least three times a day about “IT is broken”.

There are at least three reasons for this fact is not commonly known and acted upon.

First, blind belief in ‘the system’ based on authoritarian cultural programming.

Another reason the problem do not necessarily surface is the people behind the scences who actively and silently fix broken processes 24/7, see

Then, the third one one is that not all of it is utterly broken but only about, let’s say, 90%. The remaining 10% are in fact so well designed and built that they compensate for the broken stuff and keep things working nonetheless, previously expressed here

On topical occasion, here is an example: Name:Wreck, which just came up to me through this article in Wired.

IT is broken at the seams if you agree with me for a minute that TCP/IP is part of those seams.

I have another latent thread about how premature industrial order overscaling of pretty much anything can lead to unforeseen problems regardless of the concrete reason. So with 150 million vulnerable IoT objects, that is industrial scale to me.

Naive mega-scaling is more of a problem than concrete reasons itself.

Discrete state machine based approaches are long known to be brittle, and the effect is called brittleness.

List of ways in which IT is broken

  • Intrusive / annoying update notifications or requests for action. If cynical, more device time is spent updating apps than using the app. Inspired by Ubuntu snap notification popping up asking to close app so it can be updated, although it has just been updated yesterday.

The fix

Biological systems still outperform human-made technology in pretty much every relevant aspect.

One particular aspect in this regard is robustness which leads to graceful degradation of the overall system performance in case of any trouble, outage, or similar issue.

Bio-inspired design is an important key to unlocking robustness for our self-designed systems.

For example, in multi-agent systems (think swarm intelligence) agents must communicate by definition to enable a gross coordinated behavior.

In the sciences of intelligence we differentiate this into explicit and implicit communication.

Explicit communication means that one system (computer) is allowed to directly alter the nervous system (memory) of another system (computer) as a means of transmitting a chunk of information from one place to another.

IoT devices and all other computers and technical systems in general usually use explicit communication.

Implicit communication means that the sender and the receiver of the information are only indirectly coupled.

A metaphor is galvanic coupling among electric circuits which is avoided by design for sensitive applications to avoid some fundamental interferences.

Computer systems and networks should be built using implicit communication models.


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