Programmers Must Consider Risk

There is a thoughtful programmer-oriented blog called The Codist written by Andrew Wulf. In a recent posting he starts off:
I need to step outside my usual persona of writing about programming to comment on the happenings of the past few days. 
In Boston two brothers decided to blow up the Marathon, and an hour from my house half the city of West, Texas was blown to pieces in a massive explosion.
However, he goes on to discuss these events in a way that I don't think is actually outside the realm of programming. Why? He talks about risk.

As I have written about before, there is always the risk that software may not perform correctly. The general risks, both benefits and consequences, will be different for different stakeholders. (I wrote that software should be independently verified and validated.) The software development effort must understand, communicate and help deal with the risks associated with the software for all its stakeholders.

In this post I simply note that software is an integral part of modern society. Thus, risk is an integral part of software engineering. In fact, risk is a fundamental concept to engineering in general.

Software may have played an important part in both of the events Andrew mentions. For the Boston Marathon, I am pretty sure that data mining software such as face recognition algorithms were used in identifying the suspects. No details about the Texas event are publicly available yet, but with SCADA systems being common in plants nowadays, I can easily imagine software being important there too.


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