We Suck As An Industry...

... primarily because we don't want to be an "industry".

XKCD's take on software
(from XKCD)

Let's face it: Computers are everywhere, and there are good reasons for that. Some bad ones as well, but that's for another time.

For a very long time, computers were what someone might call "force multipliers". It's not that you couldn't do your job without a computer, they just made it incredibly easier. Gradually, they became indispensable. Nowadays, there are very few jobs you can do without a computer.

Making these computers (and the relevant software) went from vaguely humanitarian (but mostly awesome nerdiness) to a hugely profitable business, managing the addiction of other businesses. Can you imagine a factory today that would go "look, those computer thingies are too expensive, complex, and inhumane, let's get back to skilled labor"?

And therefore, a "certified" computer for a doctor's office costs somewhere in the range of 15k, for a hefty 750% profit margin.

It's just market forces at play, offer and demand, some will say. After all, there are huge profit margins on lots of specialized tools that are indispensable. And I won't debate that. But I'll argue that we can't square the circle between being cool nerds with our beanbags and "creative environments", and being one of the most profitable of businesses out there.

One of the problems is that, because there is a lot of money in our industry, we attract workers who aren't into the whole nerd culture, and that causes a clash. We have no standards, no ethical safeguards, no safety nets. We never evolved passed the "computer club" mentality where everything is just "chill, dude". We never needed to, because all someone has to do if they don't feel like belonging to that particular group, is to move to another one. And for a lot of us, the job is still about being radical innovators, not purveyors of useful stuff.

Burnout is a rampant issue, bugs cost lives, the overall perceived quality of the tools decreases, but hey, we get paid for our hobby, so it's all right.

I have never seen any studies on that either, but my feeling is that because the techies don't actually want to be part of an "industry" ("we want to revolutionize the world, man"), the "jocks" and the money people rise to management positions, which skew the various discriminations our field is famous for towards the bad. I am not disculping the nerds from being aweful to women. But, from experience, they tend to be that way my mistake, not by malice, whereas the people who take over for power and money reasons have more incentive to be jerks in order to amass more power or money.

It's high time we, as a profession, realize we are a business like any other, and start having standards. Quality, ethics and stability are needed in every other industry. There are safeguards and "normal rules of conduct" in automobiles, architecture/building, even fricking eating ustensils manufacturing. Why is it that we continue valuing "disruption" and "bleeding edge-ness" more than safety and guarantees?