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Jonathan Blow: Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

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Jonathan Blow gave a talk at the DevGAMM 2019 conference in Moscow about Preventing the Collapse of Civilization (YouTube):

You can read some interaction between Jonathan and a few people on Twitter in the thread of this tweet:

Here's an upload of my recent talk,
"Preventing the Collapse of Civilization",
given at DevGamm in Moscow.https://t.co/p55TSC8Xkg

This one is English audio only, fixing the unlistenability of the post-stream recordings.
Hopefully there will be a Russian-only as well.

— Jonathan Blow (@Jonathan_Blow) May 18, 2019

If you skip all the references to game development, this talk is really something that summarizes many things I was thinking myself before. Could it be the case that there is a huge thing going on in IT where we actually face a decline of development with hardly noticing?

We have been able to do many things years or even decades ago which we lost on the way. Some examples from my personal background are for example the advanced and easy to use PIM features of a Palm Pilot device running DateBK 6. Quickly sending contacts from one Palm Pilot device to another using infrared communication which worked almost flawlessly with all mobile devices. Connecting a mobile phone via Bluetooth to a Mac OS X computer and very easily sending text messages from the contact management application. Installing a software from a simple ZIP file. And so forth. There are tons of things we've lost or got much more complicated or unreliable over the recent decades.

Another notion Jonathan is mentioning is that programmers did lose the ability to code features with using a very small amount of storage or CPU. Hardware got cheap and very fast, so why dealing with optimization? Good enough was good enough. For example, this lead to Android applications for simple todo list management that require more than fifty megabytes. My first desktop computer had forty two megabytes of hard disk space in total. That was enough for the operating system, all of my programs and all of my data. Sure, I had less programs and data back then but it had way more functionality compared to one simple todo list management.

I, too, find it strange to keep adding one layer on top of each other. Either I'm old or it is actually hard to follow the latest development with the layers of OS, virtualization, containers, and so forth. If something goes wrong, it's hard to debug the issue when so many layers are involved.

My business Windows 10 machine might not be as unstable as an old Windows 95 or XP machine with respect to crashes. From the end-user perspective, I do face many issues that are driving me nuts: when Windows does not respect that I'm in a presentation (I do even tell Windows explicitly) and the screen lock activated itself. When an update is forcing me to wait for ten minutes and then lose all my open windows for the reboot. When the anti-malware is consuming more resources than my computers had five years ago. When my preference for ignoring close-events for my notebook lid is reset even though our Domain admin swears that he is not overwriting it. I could go on for a very long time.

The talk by Jonathan really gives you something to think about.

What if we are constantly losing abilities we had to develop over decades?

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