Dan Bricklin suggests that “we need to start thinking about software in a way more like how we think about building bridges, dams, and sewers.”
The world is different now than it was even just a decade or two ago. In more and more cases, there are no paper records. People expect all information to be available at all times and for new uses, just as they expect to drive the latest vehicle over an old bridge, or fill a new high-tech water bottle from an old well’s pump. Applications need to have access to all of the records, not just summaries or the most recent. Computers are involved in, or even control, all aspects of the running society, business, and much of our lives. What were once only bricks, pipes, and wires, now include silicon chips, disk drives, and software. The recent acquisition and operating cost and other advantages of computer-controlled systems over the manual, mechanical, or electrical designs of the past century and millennia have caused this switch.
I will call this software that forms a basis on which society and individuals build and run their lives “Societal Infrastructure Software”. This is the software that keeps our societal records, controls and monitors our physical infrastructure (from traffic lights to generating plants), and directly provides necessary non-physical aspects of society such as connectivity.
What we build must last for generations without total rebuilding. This requires new thinking and new ways of organizing development. This is especially important for governments of all sizes as well as for established, ongoing businesses and institutions.