Prevention and Foresight: Rare Ideals

I recently woke up to find that my PC, on which I had kept open some folders and projects mid-work, was rebooted yet again because of automatic “security” updates. Of course, formerly open windows never came back, and I had to go through the effort to reopen and re-order the array of software and “My Computer” type windows needed for the project. Fortunately, I have the foresight to save work often, in contingency of either this or sudden power outages, so that lost hours of productivity isn’t a problem when such things happen. Instead it becomes merely lost minutes. Still, that is wasteful and inefficient in principle; and even the relatively small act of having to manually save work shouldn’t be necessary. In other words…

Such things need not happen.


First of all, this is 2011, not 1986. Some programs do auto-save work or open displays at regular intervals, sometimes (what a concept!) as often as specified by the user. All should. [The software I use for this BLOG does!] Those that don’t (attention, Photoshop): learn from those that do, and make it happen. That would be an “upgrade” I would support.

Second of all, this is 2011, not 1986. How about building an OS smart enough to recognize and synergistically communicate with open programs, such that they “know” a planned system shutdown is coming and save open documents on their own, and also, to recognize and save to the profile any open windows, then re-open them all right back up to where they were, upon reboot? Duh…it makes too much sense. That would be an “upgrade” I would support.

Third of all, this is 2011, not 1986. Why the need to reboot at all? By now, I would have imagined that OS developers and hardware makers together would have figured out a way to install improvements without having to reboot. After all, PCs have existed for over three decades; surely that fundamental early flaw in the model can be improved upon sometime in that interval! That would be an “upgrade” I would support.

Finally, this principle is timeless: How about getting it right to begin with so that updates aren’t necessary? Whether the whole OS or any given program, or tangible flaws such as the upper driveway and walkway at the National Weather Center (a stretch of pavement that has undergone at least four reconstructions of various sorts since 2006), the ideal is the same. Think ahead. Do it right the first time. If the upgrade or reconstruction is that important, how about making it part of version 1?

Indeed it is a matter of principle. My TV and cable box need not download constant “updates” to keep them from being taken over by bad guys. I don’t have to call my furniture store to “upgrade” my mattress and bed frame, lest they collapse to the floor. I have a high-resolution slide and photo scanner from 2004 that hasn’t needed a single “upgrade” to do its thing with excellence; it still performs more and better (especially with film scanning) than newer models, based on online ratings.

I don’t have to bring in my vehicle (itself a complex machine) to the dealership every few weeks to get its software or hardware “patched”, lest the rotors break, the head gasket dissolves, or the intake manifold otherwise springs a leak. Do you like it when recalls happen and you have to take your car in for repairs because of faulty design? No. It’s the same principle.

Sure, occasional operator-driven maintenance is appropriate and responsible. The regular change of oil and other fluids is a good thing to remove built-up contaminants, if that’s the parallel; but it isn’t a valid analog in any way, shape or form. Software doesn’t accumulate grime. It’s either grimy and deficient to begin with, or not. The only two reasons it needs updating are if some new functions are added (a good thing, but why not have the foresight to put most of them in at the start?), or it weren’t coded robustly and securely from the very beginning.

Foresight, foresight, foresight…apparently it’s too much to ask developers to plan. Prevention, by definition, would prevent a lot of problems, from relatively small, nuisance-grade troubles such as these, to local road rebuilding, to severe weather killing people at festivals and stadiums, to gang violence in a community, to the national debt, to terrorist attacks and most wars; but alas, too many people in positions of influence at all levels seem utterly bereft of the concept of the benefits of thinking ahead.

Here’s another little example of many (just a convenient example, not picking specifically on Adobe)…

I appreciate that the developers and maintainers are willing to supply such updates for free, instead of charging for them. But such things strike me as reactive, not proactive.

Build it right the first time, and this wouldn’t be necessary, especially so stinking often:

God gave us the cognitive ability to plan and prevent; and while we’re not omniscient, the capability of foresight should be magnified and reinforced when multiplied by the number of members of a development team or group of any sort. Two heads are better than one, or at least, should be as long as laziness, passivity, fear of conflict, and mindless groupthink don’t take root. Clearly we’re not using our think-ahead capability to its fullest.

How about being proactive and not reactive? Wow, what a concept! Again, too many in government and the private sector don’t seem to understand this, regarding a gigantic variety of issues. The continual “need” for software upgrades is but one small symptom of a broader, more pervasive, indeed systematic deficiency of preventative thought in all realms.


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