As a software engineer who works in a DevOps-ish fashion within a large enterprise environment as the lead of a highly integrative product, the day-to-day can prove a maddening existence of stuff seeming to break incessantly. Our own software evolves with implications we cannot always predict with latent bugs sometimes not becoming evident until months later when obscure conditions emerge in the larger environment, other systems change their interfaces or performance characteristics in not-entirely-coordinated ways, and even ordinarily transparent things such as DNS or an underpinning SAN can go sideways without warning and ruin your evening. A drama free day can seem the exception to the rule and a drama free week laughably implausible.
In my personal life I will now-and-again have a wow moment when I actively ponder how seamlessly the technology that mediates my everyday existence on the outside (usually) functions. Sure, there are glitches, but on the whole it still amazes if you’ve got the right perspective. The sheer number of things that must all somehow work together boggles the mind. If you’ve actually tried to keep a system-of-systems in good working order then you know what I mean. The Internet Of Things keeps on truckin’ thanks to the hard work of an army of unseen and unsung back office heroes.
I was having such a moment this morning on my drive to the airport at the end of a skiing vacation in Utah. I stopped for gas, filled the tank with liquid fuel from the energy grid, swiped a token that serves as my gateway into a massive payment network, and I was on my way to return my vehicle to the “car cloud” whence I had borrowed it a few days earlier via a reservation over the Internet and subsequently to partake of the miracle of human flight which has become so economical that I can without hesitation employ it for something as frivolous as teleporting a couple thousand miles for a few days of skiing at a cost equivalent to a handful of nice meals out on the town. This quick jaunt to the airport, meanwhile, included using a pocket-sized supercomputer that integrated trivially with the borrowed car to play digitized music selected by a big data crunching artificial intelligence while merging real-time data from an ad hoc network of other such mobile supercomputer sensors and an array of satellites to guide me to my destination.
Everything is amazing but nobody is happy.
And now I am posting this bit of prose via a medium that can deliver it to millions of viewers. Never mind that I’d be lucky to have 100 people read it.
P.S. People might be unhappy because the little girl in the seat behind them on the airplane is using some amazing technology to watch a personal in-flight movie but doing so without headphones. Inconsiderate poopfaces will always find a way.