Friday, August 15, 2003

Sometimes, just sometimes, a whole bunch of stuff happens at the same time that makes you think that what you feel about how to do things is, in actual fact, right. Or at least more right.

Case in point 1 - open source versus closed source. The "obfuscation" of closed sourceness led to many people being left unpatched, when Windows Update said they were actually patched. This was due to a stupid way of checking for the patch being already applied (i.e. not actually checking for it). I don't claim that an open-source approach would have been better, but judging from the amount of traffic and thought that goes on on the bugtraq list, it's certainly much much more likely that someone else would have spotted this.

Case in point 2 - capitalism isn't so great. Turns out that the North America/Canada black-outs were caused by negligence more than anything else:

"Furthermore, the increased competition amongst power suppliers has cut profit margins, making the firms reluctant to make new investments if not absolutely necessary."

This was after the power industry was deregulated in the 1980s. The BBC don't say why it was, but I can't see any good reason, apart from to improve the, uh, "efficiency" of corporations...

This brings up one important effect of capitalism and competition - that by placing economies of scale and profit margins higher than quality assessment, you ensure a certain level of striving for minimalism - most bang for buck, so to speak. In a market in which quality is all important, and in which there is little to differentiate the competition anyway (i.e. little room for advance and improvement other than service charges et al), competition just isn't appropriate. British trains are another great case study. And our telecoms. In the end, the state always has to step in (with the fantastic advice... "Stay cool by drinking water, wearing light clothing and keeping the windows open"...)

The other obvious effect of capitalism is corruption, as again people strive for profit. This is why Enron was so inevitable, and it'll happen again.


Amusingly, Billy Gates managed to sum it all up in his memo re security:

"Today, in the developed world, we do not worry about electricity and water services being available."

Mmmm, apt...

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