Not too long ago, flying could be a relatively pleasant experience, but executives focused on cutting costs have stripped away everything flyers associated with luxury or even dignity. Food, baggage handling, boarding in a logical manner: Things once taken for granted now must be paid for or done without. Flights are more crowded than they’ve been since World War II, when they were carrying troops. And on a recent Ryanair flight, I discovered that not even water was free. - Why
Does Air Travel Make People So Grumpy?
There's a lot of money out there for someone who solves one of American-style capitalism's core problems... how do I signal to a corporation that I'm willing to pay slightly more to get service that doesn't have all the corners filed off? And how do we make this palatable to people?
I don't mean premium service. I mean just that... service without every corner cut. If I'm buying a $100 item, I'd rather pay $110 for something where they used metal for the critical component instead of plastic, or quality metal instead of cheap metal. I'd rather pay the pennies more for quality screws that won't rust closed in a year.
In theory, airlines have solved the problem. With many companies you can easily pay another ~20% of the ticket price for "enhanced economy" seating, with more legroom and better seats. But that's obviously not preventing the stream of complaints, so obviously it's not a palatable solution.
Is there a solution at all? If consumers at scale simply pick the cheapest option regardless of anything else, the answer is no. The market can only go in one direction, and given that that leaves the service providers with no other option, it is hard to blame them in good faith. But I'm not ready to make that call.
There are some other ways that seem to at least partially work. You can go to Wal-Mart and get something with all the corners cut off, plus a few bits of the core product, but you can also go to Target and get something that is cheap, but not quite that cheap. Supermarkets also now have so many products on the shelves that you can almost always either buy the cheap olive oil, or a more premium option.
But there's still a lot of markets where price is relentlessly driven downward at all costs (pun half intended), and it would be great if there was some reliable way at scale to coordinate a difficult-to-forge signal of quality that said "This has been made cost-effective, but not actualy 'cheap'".
Solve that to make a lot of money.
It is impossible to deeply understand a solution before you have the problem.
Let me give you an example that probably all my readers can relate to: Mathematics education. Do you remember first seeing the quadratic equation and wondering why you should care? Or even if you were a math nerd like me, can you understand why someone would be asking themselves that at that point?
I've read a lot of programming blogs, and if you're reading this, you probably have too. So let me tell you up-front this is not your usual security rant that boils down to "just try harder!" Let's talk about smart, experienced programmers who are trying to write secure code, even if they are not security "experts" per se. This is an important set of people, because there is more security-related software in the world to write than can be written by security experts.
In a perfect world, setting that as the target audience would conclude this essay. As your browser's scrollbar shows in the full view, this essay continues on for quite a while. Alas, decades of experience and a trained reasonably high intelligence are not sufficient to write secure software in the current coding environment.
That's also the highest amount of qualifications that can be feasibly brought to bear at any reasonable scale, so in practice that's equivalent to saying it's impossible to write secure software in the current coding environment.
Let's talk about why it's so hard. My thesis is simple:
We write insecure software because our coding environment makes it easier to write insecure software than secure software.
But exploring what it fully means can lead some surprising places. Please join me on a journey as I try to show you why that is not trivially true, but in fact, profoundly true. We do not occasionally pick up insecure tools, like a broken encryption routine or misusing a web framework; we are fish swimming in an ocean of insecurity, oblivious to how steeped in it we are.
I thought I'd use Prime Music to explore some classical I hadn't gotten around to yet. You know... Mozart, some stuff by Beethoven I haven't heard yet, Bach, MC Hammer... you know, the classics.
Only a poor student of history could fail to notice history's cycles. The future can't be fortold in detail, but asking the question "Where are the cycles taking us?" gives you a better chance of guessing general shapes than anything else I know.
So it's easy for a student of history to look out at the United States and guess that we're approaching a libertine peak, and that over the next couple of decades we should expect to see the pendulum swing away from the wild excesses of the Baby Boomers back in a more "conservative" direction.
But at my age, I've never lived through a shift. So had I guessed how the counter-libertine shift would occur last week, I would have guessed a gradual cultural waning of the libertines and a gradual cultural waxing of those of a more conservative bent, with the advocates not changing their own views but their relative influence changing over time.
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