Power of Babel

I've been involved with computer and networking technology since the 80's and the one thing that amazes me is how much of the problems we have with them are the result of programmers writing in code that makes the systems more powerful but with less control.

Much of the malware associated with Windows was built into the system. With Windows the idea that one could get a computer virus from reading an email was made possible. On the internet things like port 25 email open proxies and simple disorganization have contributed to a system that is almost out of control. Spam accounts for better than 75% of email now and there is little control being built into the protocols that speed information (or garbage) around the world. The randomized messages that often accompany spam may be an apposite illustration of how well we are communicating.

When I was involved in BBS systems a predecessor to the open internet arrangements had to be made to be able to send mail or files to another system. Most of it was hierarchial and documented. If you got a mail message you could find out where it came from and how it got there. SMTP looks like it could have been like that when you look at the headers but apparently specialists have thrown caution to the wind in speeding up processing.

With all of the power built in to our systems today there is considerably less control over it and without control power just isn't very powerful or useful. While we are building our powerful system for information gathering and dissemination we may also be heading toward a digital Tower of Babel.

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