All software engineering is a grift

Dijkstra called software engineering “the doomed discipline”. (If you aren’t aware, Dijkstra is kind of a big deal in the computing world, comparable to Feynman in Physics.)

Dijkstra also opposed the inclusion of software engineering under the umbrella of academic computer science. He wrote that, “As economics is known as “The Miserable Science”, software engineering should be known as “The Doomed Discipline”, doomed because it cannot even approach its goal since its goal is self-contradictory.” And “software engineering has accepted as its charter ‘How to program if you cannot.'”[33]

Its very existence as a profession depends on draconian intellectual property laws and enforcement.

In many of his more witty essays, Dijkstra described a fictional company of which he served as chairman. The company was called Mathematics, Inc., a company that he imagined having commercialized the production of mathematical theorems in the same way that software companies had commercialized the production of computer programs. He invented a number of activities and challenges of Mathematics Inc. and documented them in several papers in the EWD series. The imaginary company had produced a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis but then had great difficulties collecting royalties from mathematicians who had proved results assuming the Riemann Hypothesis. The proof itself was a trade secret.[30] Many of the company’s proofs were rushed out the door and then much of the company’s effort had to be spent on maintenance.[31] A more successful effort was the Standard Proof for Pythagoras’ Theorem, that replaced the more than 100 incompatible existing proofs.[32] Dijkstra described Mathematics Inc. as “the most exciting and most miserable business ever conceived”.[30] EWD 443 (1974) describes his fictional company as having over 75 percent of the world’s market share.[33][34]

The takeaway is that software engineering is a grift. There’s no money in writing new code, which takes very smart people a very long time (because it’s like coming up with new theorems). Only researchers do this, and it’s not profitable and never can be (ref. Thiel, Zero to One). All the money is in copy/pasting existing code that researchers already came up with. But that only works if you don’t enforce IP laws, and in that case we should wonder why everyone doesn’t simply use the existing code. So we have this ridiculous situation where millions of people are furiously typing things that have already been typed millions of times before (how many times do rugged individuals have to reinvent the website storefront from first principles?) because we have to pretend that innovation is happening somewhere, because we’re all a bunch of compulsive liars who don’t understand how anything actually works. Apparently that’s very attractive to women because ??? don’t care must reproduce

So again, all software engineering is a grift. It only works by selectively enforcing copyright laws on some people but not on others, and due to the nature of specialization this usually means the people actually innovating get fucked in the ass by the people who specialize in copyright law. Fortunately, Boomers have not yet realized that the idea of software development is a big joke at their expense.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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4 Responses to All software engineering is a grift

  1. Sturm Bringer says:

    This sounds oddly familiar to inventing. (The copyright and original innovator, etc.)

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      It’s inventing times infinity because in classical inventing the prototype is a tangible, material product. In software it’s all Platonic forms and unicorn farts.

  2. liebling says:

    Honestly software engineering is more like construction than anything else. There’s always some shitty little thing that needs to be different, the theoretical “we just do everything once” programmer’s utopia is never happening. Nobody’s copyrighting doors, or showers, or windows. It’s just that the expertise to slap them together is something you can get paid for

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