Because china

I’ve been saying for years how everything is starting to suck more and more, mostly in the software development world because that’s what I see most, but now I’m starting to see the edges fraying in other fields too.

I call this “progress.” When we take something that works, make it better, and the end result is that it doesn’t work as well.

Take the humble telephone. It used to be that if the power went out because of a power source problem (and not wires down on your street), you could still make phone calls. But now we have better phones, the kind that go out when the power goes out. Things like that.

Well today I saw a number of examples in a completely different field. All of my kids’ birthdays are in June, and as a result there’s an onslaught of toys and assembly required all around the same time.

Today I noticed this:

A solar car that needed to be assembled from parts that snapped together, included two identical parts that instead should have been a left side and a right side part. Poor quality control? Bad sorting mechanism? Surely there was a person somewhere who gathered the parts into a set for this toy, and grabbed one of the wrong part. I’m going to begin the effort of trying to get the correct part from tomorrow, I’m sure it will yield nothing. I can tell by the relatively good but still obviously translated instruction page.

But the day is not over. We also got a toy that was a car carrier truck, that included a little ford focus car that it carried, so you can play with them as a set or separately. You can put the ford focus in the truck or drive it out of the truck. Very cool for a small kid. The focus was decked out with all sorts of decals to make it sporty looking, except it was painfully obvious that one of the stickers was just missing. Nobody ever even tried to put it on. Poor quality control? Bin of stickers empty? Surely there was a person somewhere who’s job it was to put the stickers on this car and for whatever reason, they missed this one.

A missing sticker here, an incorrect part there, a software crash over there… Not a big deal.

But it’s a sign that things are getting worse. I think a while ago I went on about “peak programmer.” I’m starting to think perhaps the problem is more systemic than just programs becoming too complex for your average programmer.

Maybe all of our business processes and just-in-time supply chains have become so complicated and efficient that the average person can’t deal with it 100% of the time and more and more mistakes are made.

Stickers and toy parts aren’t a big deal, but one of these days, somebody’s going to put the wrong stone in the keystone position of the wall they’re building, or they’ll grab the lower-integrity I-beam when building that bridge buttress.

Or the surgeon’s scalpel will break due to a bad mixture of the steel used to make it.

Or maybe I just got two bad toys on the same day.

But I don’t think so.







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