Very long timescales

2023-08-29 06:05:00 +0700 by Mark Smith

We are enterring a new era where the timescales we have to consider for practical purposes when we build our software systems are much much longer than anything previously. And this is going to be very strange. Lots of narly edge cases and counter intuitive situations. The new Wordpress 100-year plan is an example of this. Long term nuclear waste storage is also an example that is related.

From the linkblog 2023-08-27:

Wordpress: The 100-Year Plan - "The 100-Year Plan ensures that your stories, achievements, and memories are preserved for generations to come. One payment. One hundred years of legacy. US$38,000." - It just so happens to be $1 per day, which means even if you only had 1 customer you might just be able to pull it off. What a curious price, don't you think?

With that in mind the lastest Duncan Trussell Podcast with Mitch Horowitz is very interesting. Of course it's quite far out there in a lot of places, but like it or not, this stuff is the prior art and we should consider it in some way, because these questions that we need solves for are very challenging indeed. Much more challenging than we realise at this point. Being practical at timescales that approach a human lifespan is very difficult indeed.

You have to start thinking generationally, and we haven't really even started building tools and processes for that. This is especially the case for free and open source software, which doesn't really have many parallels in our past. You might think that it's not that relevant, that these are outliers, but when you look at the technologies we are developing in the biology and life sciences sector for example, IMO these types of dilemas are going to start cropping up much more frequently.

Update: I just listenned to the latest Bankess podcast. Not much else to add at this point, but it's clearly very relevant. This stuff is very complicated even before considering the very long timescale implications.

It's like we are all climbing a cliff together. It's potentially very dangerous but with the right process and equipment many of the dangers can be mitigated.

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