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I have been programming since the '80s and I disagree that the industry becoming more stable or that the prime cause is immaturity.

IMHO the ultimate source of instability is that we deal with pure thought-stuff that has very little internal constraint except at the interfaces. Other engineering is quickly constrained by materials, biology and physics but for us, any idle thought can become our reality. The faster we can communicate and the faster we can build, the faster the iteration.

We can achieve much the same ends in any number of different styles and paradigms. The primitives for a programmer have more to do with poetry, memes, fashion and the creative end of pure math than physical systems. There can be no assumption of convergence. The pull of a social group will crush the technical excellence of an out group.




We face a lot of those constraints as well - money, time, computing power, knowledge, politics. In the short term, a social group may dominate and push a company in the wrong direction. In the long term, that company will lose out to the one that chooses the right direction, because of those constraints. ('Company' is a loose term here - it could be a department, a team, etc.)


Those constraints are incomparably looser than those encountered in a "stable" engineering discipline e.g. you can't build a driveshaft out of wood but you could write paxos in brainfuck. The use of physical material with hard constraints means there are "few good solutions" hence the disciplines converge and stabilise. Our thought-stuff just doesn't have that property. Even a hard real-time constraint does not strongly dictate many of our design and implementation choices of the written code, only the final behaviour.


Not being constrained by weight and size (unlike most other forms of engineering) explains code bloat and perhaps NIH but not hype.


The argument is that the lack of constraint means that social forces are allowed to dominate, such as hype, fashion etc. Its not causal, its vulnerability. Any human endeavour similarly unconstrained will see similar dynamics when popularity, status, boredom and novelty run free.




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