Sunday, 17 January 2016

How code transparency can save lives

Karen Sandler's  is a executive director at Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) which helps to promote and defend free and open-source software.

She has a heart condition where her abnormally large heart could suffer a cardiac arrest at any time and as a result her heart has been fitted with a combined pacemaker-defibrillator.

This device has coded instructions for when to deliver a shock to correct potentially-fatal irregularities in her heart beat.

However for Karen these instructions turned out to be wrong where she was twice needlessly electrocuted by the unit.

For Karen, the mistaken suppositions coded into the device are a reminder of how important it is for software to be transparent.

"I've got a pacemaker-defibrillator implanted in my body that my life relies on," said Sandler. "I can't even review the source code, let alone hire people or write myself some code that is specific to my own situation that would avoid me being shocked.

"Expecting the device manufacturers to anticipate all the problems that I would have is naive. It's not in their financial interests but also it [my condition] is very rare.

"It really brings home the fact that if you don't have control over the software that you rely on it can be really problematic."

It's easy to see Sandler as an outlier and to assume that most people's lives aren't so dependent upon code. But as we move into an age where cars are becoming increasingly autonomous she argues that all of us will soon, to some degree, be reliant on software to keep us alive.

"The average luxury car has 100 million lines of code in it. The Software Engineering Institute estimates that one bug is introduced for every 100 lines of code. It's really scary to think about."

Read entire article here:

No comments:

Post a Comment