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Flash
Official Dog Handler
Joined: 04 May 2005 Posts: 12819 Location: Arizona USA

Posted: Tue 10 Oct 2017, 12:09 Post subject:
The Coming Software Apocalypse 

The Coming Software Apocalypse
A pretty good article about programming, from The Atlantic magazine, of all people.

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jafadmin
Joined: 19 Mar 2009 Posts: 751

Posted: Tue 10 Oct 2017, 19:51 Post subject:


The results of using the lowest bidder. Same as it ever was ..

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tallboy
Joined: 21 Sep 2010 Posts: 907 Location: Oslo, Norway

Posted: Wed 11 Oct 2017, 00:15 Post subject:


A very interesting reflection on the programming 'industry'. Thank you, Flash.
tallboy
_________________ True freedom is a live Puppy on a multisession CD/DVD.

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6502coder
Joined: 23 Mar 2009 Posts: 446 Location: Western United States

Posted: Wed 11 Oct 2017, 17:56 Post subject:


When I was programming on UNIX way back in the early '80s, I remember pointing out to my colleagues how amazingly primitive it was that we were still creating programs by laboriously typing characters into text files. Even then, I can hardly have been the first to make that observation.
I am skeptical of any suggestion that a breakthrough is anywhere in sight. Fundamentally, a correct program is a logical construct, a collection of (mostly implicit) assertions that since THIS is true, then THAT is true, and so on. The problem is that the logic is often necessarily convoluted, so it is easy to make subtle errors in reasoning. Writing a nontrivial bugfree program is at least as hard, if not much harder, than writing a law that is free of unintended consequences.
Back in '70s and '80s the computer scientist OleJohan Dahl (Turing Award winner in 2001) did some really interesting work on the question of how one proves that a program is correct, using the notion of "weakest precondition." On the one hand, it was great to see how one could, for example, prove that a forloop terminated with the correct result. On the other hand, it was very sobering that so much of the apparatus of formal logic was required just to prove that a simple forloop was correct, much less an entire nontrivial program.
Graphical aids like the ones described in the article are nice, but can only do so much. As long as programs continue to have to manipulate complex abstractions that have no simple visual rendering, programming will be hard work.

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WIckedWitch
Joined: 29 Mar 2018 Posts: 30 Location: West Wales bandit country

Posted: Yesterday, at 19:24 Post subject:


A subject dear to my heart. Many years ago, I was taught mathematics at a school that had, at the time, probably the best school mathematics department in the UK. Its maths course for UK Alevels went far beyond the written syllabus and covered a large part of what was then first year undergraduate mathematics. In fact, at one point, we were trained for UK Alevel exams by being given Cambridge University Master's papers to attempt (which most of us found not unduly difficult).
Most important of all, we were taught that mathematics is not about numbers and algebra but about patterns and structure; and further that mathematics is the finest problemsolving tool that human intellect has yet devised.
Although circumstances and illness prevented my completing an undergraduate course (pure maths, applied maths, statistics and computing), I nevertheless brought a welltrained mathematical mindset to programming  and was immediately considered an utter freak by my colleagues.
Back in 1977, I was a founder member of the British Computer Society Specialist Group in Formal Aspects of Computing Science. By the time I retire, I thought, everyone will be using mathematics to get programs right. How wrong I was.
Largely because of an early excellent mathematical education, it is second nature to me to solve problems in mathematics before getting anywhere near writing code. For the past 25 years, I have worked on nothing but critical systems  and the mathematical incompetence of most software engineers leaves me, frankly, terrified.
Only yesterday, I received from a colleague an email about the desirability of strenuous testing of compilers for code in autonomous vehicles. It's a good idea  but the biggest risks in such vehicles arise from technical overreach by gungho AI developers, some of whom, IMHO, shouldn't be trusted with so much as an abacus.
The software industry is riddled with ignorance about how to get software correct and dependable. I see very little impetus towards the thoroughgoing culture change that will be needed to ensure that selfdriving cars stop killing people any time soon.
(end of selfrighteous, opinionated rant)
_________________ Sometimes I post mindfully, sometimes not mindfully, and sometimes both mindfully and not mindfully. It all depends on whether and when my mind goes walkies while I'm posting

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tallboy
Joined: 21 Sep 2010 Posts: 907 Location: Oslo, Norway

Posted: Yesterday, at 20:13 Post subject:


There is a strong focus on Computational Mathematics today, for example at the UiO, OleJohan Dahl's old workplace. (uni in Oslo) Unfortunately, they now often use a language like Python to implement mathematical formulas to problems, instead of doing the opposite, like WickedWitch describes. Okay, you save chalk on 3 blackboard full of formulas, and can show nice 3D curves and colored stress models of the result from the calculations, but I feel that the whole concept start off in the wrong end.
But then again, my own mathematical 'achievements' are not exactly worth mentioning at all...
_________________ True freedom is a live Puppy on a multisession CD/DVD.

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WIckedWitch
Joined: 29 Mar 2018 Posts: 30 Location: West Wales bandit country

Posted: Today, at 19:41 Post subject:


tallboy wrote: 
But then again, my own mathematical 'achievements' are not exactly worth mentioning at all... 
I don't think mathematical achievement is too important. It's the mathematical way of thinking that's the key thing. My own mathematical achievements are as near to zero as makes no difference but ever since I can remember being aware of my own cognitive style, it has been second nature to me to use mathematics as a way to describe and solve problems. It really annoys me when people who have studied mathematics at university try as hard as they can to run away from it when working as engineers. In my experience, software engineers are the worst offenders of this kind.
_________________ Sometimes I post mindfully, sometimes not mindfully, and sometimes both mindfully and not mindfully. It all depends on whether and when my mind goes walkies while I'm posting

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