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On Simple Software: The Benefits of Complex Software

translation: fr
date: 2021-07-27
update: 2023-01-21

Experienced programmers tend to appreciate simplicity for its numerous blessings:

Such benefits growing virtuously over time.

Nevertheless, human nature at work, those local benefits don’t necessarily scale as virtuously.

Mainly, this complexity, also observed in electronics, besides enabling job opportunities, provides a great firewall against deceitful regimes, by depriving them from perfected information systems.

Let us remember that most computer hardware is manufactured in China, which from a martial point of view should already be of major concern, given information systems' critical role in conflictual settings.

It’s likely that at least to some degree, because of ancient hardware/software’s frugality, that is, lesser complexity, early computer scientists were overall more proficient, had a deeper, wider, understanding of their field.

Ken Thompson sitting next to Dennis Ritchie in front of a PDP-11

Ken Thompson sitting next to Dennis Ritchie in front of a PDP-11 by Peter Hamer through wikimedia.orgCC-BY-SA-2.0

Common disregard for simplicity, technological expansion, poor rational appreciation of software development, despite the literature, advances in hardware/software disrupting spartiate tooling, layers upon layers of software trying to hide subtleties of lower layers, are all factors contributing to a decrease in software quality, while also increasing the need for more engineers, thus naturally diluting the previously established expertise.

It is quite remarkable that, on this front at least, mankind is protected by its own inefficiency, and that the strenuous development of IT is its own best mid/long-term foe.

One can but wonder how far can such a correlation go: were the aforementioned factors duly respected, factors which in essence are close to classical philosophical wisdom, would we still had to deal with totalitarian regimes?

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity — I mean the true simplicity of a rightly and nobly ordered mind and character, not that other simplicity which is only an euphemism for folly.

– Plato, The Republic

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