Genii Weblog

Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.

Mon 8 Dec 2008, 01:47 PM
It has long been irritating to me to see people treat weak software as if it needs to be coddled rather than strengthened.  It might be one thing when the software is relatively non-essential, such as Symphony's presentation software, but quite another when it is software used for matters of life and death, security or vast sums of money.  A classic example is the repeated failures of the Star Wars defense systems.  After a few failures, the testers simply started making the tests easier and easier to pass until they could declare success at something, even if it was nothing like a real world threat.  Sure makes me safe!

Today I read about a less important case, but one that equally seems to miss the point.  In Indiana, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles has decreed that people getting their photographs taken may not wear scarves or hats or glasses or even smile, as such obstructions may confuse the facial recognition software they use.  It does not seem to occur to them that a) their facial recognition software is too weak to be relied on, and b) advertising the weakness this way simply ensures that people who don't want to be recognized will actually wear their glasses and smile.  Gee, that sounds like a plan.  It seems like it would be even easier to simply demand that lawbreakers and terrorists wear a special hat that could be easily recognized by the software, as that would eliminate all confusion and not strain the software too much.

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