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How factories were made safe (rootsofprogress.org)
132 points by jasoncrawford 10 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 111 comments





So, one lesson we might apply to is infosecurity would be automatic liability for information they collected and leaked. That would cause companies to fight for their user privacy and implement stronger security measure while also collecting less information.

Well, maybe. We won't know if it work well until it's actually implemented.


Info leaks have negligible provable harms. It's a real moral hazard. It's not that there aren't harms, it's that it's nearly impossible to link any harms back to any specific leak.

Statutory damages exist precisely for this reason.

Which is why automatic defined liability for the leak might be the solution to the problem.

Well, CCPA started doing this in California. In the event of a data breach, the company can be sued for actual damages, or statutory damages of $100-750 per affected consumer.

As a point of comparison: If CCPA had been in effect during the Equifax incident, the statutory damages only for California residents would have been $1.5 billion minimum. As far as I can tell for Wikipedia, the settlement they agreed to with 48 states combines to about 1/3 of that amount.


If a multistage class action lawsuit is settled for billions and people harmed receive only free credit monitoring gift cards, is our sense of justice served?

I don't care so much about justice as nobody does it again. If the lawyers make a ton once and there isn't a next time I'm happy. Well better would be it doesn't happen again

If an info leak occurs in a data center and no one is harmed, does it make any liability?

Having your personal information leaked is harm. Difficult to quantify harm, but harm none the less.

At this point in time, what could be leaked about nearly anyone that hasn’t already been leaked?

> Thus, accidents were typically attributed to worker “carelessness.”

This attitude survives, not only in the workplace (where safety laws are often fought as "needless red tape") but outside it too (your poverty is due to carelessness, and is nobody else's responsibility).


Same with software bugs it's always "careless" programming.

My first mentor immediately took me to task when I called something I had done "a stupid bug." He stopped me and said "All bugs are stupid[1]." The point being that the overwhelming majority of the time, once you are looking at a bug, it looks like carelessness and stupidity, and yet very smart, careful programmers introduce such bugs with surprising regularity.

1: The motto is "All bugs are stupid" but he did admit later that there are such things as "smart bugs" though they be rare enough to be a rounding error.


This is true, we have the ability to house every homeless person. There are more second vacation homes than homeless people. Why not just move them in? I'm not even talking about the ones available for rent - just the ones sitting there empty.

As far as I understand, we do have the physical capability of housing that many people, but a significant number of the homeless are drug addicted, have mental illness, or both, and attempts to provide housing in mass like that leads to many of the houses becoming filthy and/or damaged. And who would want to give up a house for that? Homelessness can't just be solved with a housing band-aid, but needs to be addressed at the source with support for the drug addicted and mentally ill.

Having safe, stable shelter would seem to be a prerequisite to helping people deal with drug addiction and mental illness.

Baxter, A. J., Tweed, E. J., Katikireddi, S. V., & Thomson, H. (2019). Effects of Housing First approaches on health and well-being of adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. J Epidemiol Community Health, 73(5), 379-387.


We should build enough shelters for homeless, but separately for those who are addicted and those who are not. (Maybe more than two types of shelters.)

For a homeless person who is not addicted, sharing the shelter with the addicted ones means constant worry that even the little stuff they own gets stolen the moment they stop paying attention, and also lack of sleep because of the constant screaming and fighting during the night.


That is one factor, but it isn't everything, there are still other factors so don't overstate it

As someone with experience with severe mental illness (BP1) I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of a stable environment when dealing with an acute mental health crisis.

downvoted because they clearly said 'pre-requisite' which is in no way an overstatement.

The audacity of that tangent at the end. "Natural and inevitable"? People fought and died for your 40 hour work week. You know May Day? The Labor Day for the rest of the world? Commemorates the Haymarket Massacre, which was fighting for the 8 hour work day.

Yeah there’s a lot of people who don’t know the history of labor at all and have been convinced that companies without outside regulation would totally treat their employees well and not abuse, over work, injure, or flatly refuse to pay owed wages. It’s a real success story for the pro-business groups in the US and around the world.

I'm endlessly amused that the Richard Nixon years gave us OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act (proposed by the Nixon Administration, passed by Ford), the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act, and the excellent Clean Air Act amendments/extension of 1970.

It’s kind of crazy how fast American politics went off the rails. Really seems like it really kicks off with Reagan but I’m not versed enough to be sure if he’s the cause or just one of the symptoms (most likely both really in the end) but it’s always wild to see just how many of the ‘big government run amok’ agencies came out of the Nixon admin.

I've seen the idea float around that in order for democracy to function, the people need to see the political leadership as a) competent and b) acting in good faith. For the group of people who were coming into political adulthood in the 70s-80s (mostly born circa 1945-1965), those sentiments were deeply undermined by the Iran-Contra affair/hostage crisis and Watergate respectively.

That cohort have now been the modal force in politics, business and the electorate for a few decades, and we're seeing the results.


Personally I think it's partially an (mis)information issue. With the explosion of information sources starting with cable and then exploding again with the internet and social media we've gone from a relatively uniform media environment and a drought of information to a fractured media environment with an absolute deluge. So now you can live in a completely different factual world than someone doors down from you and still have more supporting sources of information than you could consume even if you spent all your time awake.

Nixon was planning on redistributing money through a negative income tax as well. I’d say what you’re describing really started with the ideology behind the Goldwater candidacy.

It's easy to write "just-so" explanations about American political trends, but I agree that Goldwater is really the crux to understanding exactly the mess we're in today: you can draw a direct line of thought and political lineage (one politician fostering the next) from Goldwater to Reagan to the Contract with America[1] to our most recent ex-administration.

Toss in America's (inevitable) deindustrialization and the violent, systematic oppression of worker's movements without any real pushback from the DNC, and it's hard to see how things could have ended up any differently.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract_with_America


> Really seems like it really kicks off with Reagan but I’m not versed enough to be sure if he’s the cause or just one of the symptoms

It was a concerted effort that started in the 1970s, and when Reagan got in things kicked off:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_Geniuses:_The_Unmaking_of...

Given that Democrats controlled Congress during the 1980s, they were complicit, but most of the ideas originally came from right-wing think tanks funded by oligarchs like the Koch brothers:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Money_(book)

* https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/sep/26/koch-brother...

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_activities_of_the_Ko...


Goldwater lost but it surprised most strategists that he was able to carry the deep south, historically a democratic stronghold since the end of the civil war, particularly with blue collar workers.

This was essentially due to Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights movement. This observation became strategy, to use the movement as a wedge issue to convince conservative southern democrats to switch allegiance. Before this, the distribution of conservative to progressive, while still slanted, was more even than afterwards. The trend continued through Nixon, Reagan, Newt Gingrich, GWB, and now Trump.

It's largely been the same cohort of voters driving this trend, and their views have been becoming more radical vs centrist. Among democrats you can see some attempts to cater to these voters as well like with Bill Clinton. Another big part of it is the rise of the evangelical right to top level influence in the republican party as well.

There's certainly a whole heck of a lot more to the story than this, but when you go digging through the dispassionate history and summaries, this realignment is clear. In some sense the republican leadership is now being hoisted by their own petard, as the more classical or centrist ones show in relation to how they respond to Trump's most extreme actions.

We're probably headed for another realignment, but I think anyone claiming to know what will trigger it or how it will shake it is far too confident of their own clairvoyance.


You see the same misconception with environmental regulations, it makes for some interesting (though frustrating) discussions though.

You see the same misconceptions in the other direction as well.

It's like some people think a work stoppage from cleaning up a dead worker or hazardous material spill don't result in lost productivity that workplaces would rather not incur.


But it’s been shown again and again that the cheaper option will be taken and if the fix is more expensive than the pause to clean, guess which happens.

Amazon seems to have (or had?) this issue with climate control in their warehouses. Was the fix done because of the need to protect workers and keep them working, or the PR disaster that they caused?


The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire happened on March 25, 1911. The owner kept the factory doors locked and as a result 146 people either died in the fire or jumped to their deaths. The owners were acquitted of manslaughter, but did have to pay $75 per person they killed. The owners made $60,000 profit due to the insurance payout.

Two years later in 1913, the one of the owners was arrested for locking his factory doors, again, and fined $20.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_Shirtwaist_Factory_fi...


Well that assumes they actually stop work beyond the exact area to address the death/spill. Very few places run just one line after all you can keep running everywhere else. This also ignores the fact that we have contemporary and decades examples of factories continuing to operate as they continue to injure workers because even a death doesn't actually cause them to lose much without meaningful worker protections.

You are assuming businesses know precisely what level of overwork or negligence will lead to lower costs (higher profit) and what level will lead to needing to cleanup a dead worker.

...So they lobby for 'pro-business' laws to limit the downside of such events.

Add in the wild and arbitrary decision that punitive damages shouldn't exceed ~9x the compensatory damages and the corporate behavior control mechanisms have been largely denuded (and many US states have lowered that even more).

Yeah, I didn't fully understand the point of that tangent, and it sounds like to me this "debate" between the Progressive and Capitalist, was "won" by the Progressive. But I guess I'm just a radical?

> P. ....But the safety movement was not inevitable—it was the result of progressive reformers. Capitalism would never have accomplished this on its own.

> C. Well… I have to admit, reformers like Eastman and Hard seem instrumental in this story. Their work helped bring about the legal reform, and the legal reform brought about the safety departments. So, I have to give them credit for that.

> P: Good.

Is this not a straight admission of the flaws of capitalism?

This bit was especially hilarious to me--

> C: No, you can’t sign away all your rights. You can’t sell yourself into slavery, for instance.

uh... yes, people did.

I somewhat think that's the point of the tangent though. Much of the blog goes into nitty-gritty detail on other ways society progresses-- by blood, sweat, and tears-- and so I think this tangent pushes that narrative, but it's weird that the opposite narrative is appeared to be given equal footing when previous posts seem to argue that it's not.

Or perhaps it was an attempt to push to reader into the mindset at the time, in which case, the counter-arguments still aren't that convincing to me, but again perhaps it's just the modernity bias.


You nicely illustrated the incentives to never give credit to people on the other side, not even if you are a fictional character, because that will be quoted as an admission that you(r side) lost the debate.

It is an essentially inevitable result of technological development. If the 40 hour workweek people had protested 30 years earlier, nothing would have happened, and if they hadn’t protested at all it probably would have been achieved with less effort a few years down the line. You need occasional shocks to remove entrenched procedural traditions like work schedules, but the magnitude of the shock required decreases as the change becomes more obviously beneficial.

"It is an essentially inevitable result of technological development"

So its been over a century, why are we still stuck at 40 hours?


We'll probably see a big shift soon. The environment is ripe for it. Various factors have suppressed the probability of such a transition occurring (e.g. https://wtfhappenedin1971.com), but it's becoming overwhelmingly likely.

Already, many white-collar jobs (especially in tech) have large numbers of people working fewer than 40 hours a week.


There are plenty of countries where this is not achieved, and it's unlikely to change without some kind of pressure, either from the workers or from the government

Which countries? I can think of some but the reason is usually something like elite overproduction or poverty.

It's tempting to use macro trends, like the advent of workplace safety, to confirm one's existing beliefs. Economy-wide changes like this are pretty much without exception driven by a bunch of different factors working together and you can pretty much always find some to cherry pick to back whatever your opinion is that minute.

Pretty much all the current literature about workplace safety seems to follow one ideological bent. I commend the author for at least hitting the topic from a wide array of angles even if he missed a couple.


I absolutely agree.

3..2..1 until someone blames or credits some President or the other or a famous worker strike. Models are particularly comforting when they are so simple as to be useless.

Now, back to some work on the lathe while wearing my necktie.


> The lack of systems thinking

We managed to make factories safe but kill 1.3 M people/year in traffic instead [1]

I wonder: will we ever manage to apply systems thinking in traffic as well?

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/road-traffi...


The key for workman's comp was no-fault--you pay for your own accidents. That had to be enshrined in law to work.

Several US states HAD No-Fault insurance laws--ie your own insurance company pays for your own accidents.

The insurance companies lobbied like crazy to get those removed. They're all gone now.

If you got those No-Fault insurance laws back, the required systems thinking would ensue.


Wouldn't it be more analogous to if the state or the Department of Transportation paid for all accidents since they are the ones controlling the system? Insurance companies don't have any power to change road designs or traffic laws.

Pennsylvania at least has no-fault auto insurance.

It used to. The auto lobby got rid of it. Did it come back at some point?

Google tells me it does; I checked before posting my original comment. Can you find anything that says otherwise?

PA is apparently kind of weird: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/pennsylvania-no-faul...

Also, "No Fault" doesn't cover vehicle damage. Apparently, this is what I was remembering. It changed when I lived in Pennsylvania (that was quite a while ago).


One start would be to disable smartphones from operating when linked to a car system, massively increase enforcement of smartphone use while driving, and increase penalties.

None of that would be popular, but it would be effective.


That would create temporary disruption, but how would it have any long term benefit, once cars started having navigation as an option again?

Navigation isn't the issue, it's people texting.

If navigation isn't the issue, why can't people use Android Auto/CarPlay? I don't think they allow texting.

Ah, sorry, I guess my op wasnt clear, but that was my intent

Let police agencies access cell phone location history and fine anyone moving above the speed limit on a road.

Force cell phones to stop working when velocity is above 5 mph.


Not all cell phones being used in cars are used by drivers. I wouldn’t want my cell phone disabled in an Uber, or to get a ticket because my uber driver was speeding.

But Uber drivers are all using their cell phones for routing, are they not?

So never mind your phone, how would their business even operate if no phones were allowed?


>>a simple and effective change to the law set in motion an entire apparatus of management and engineering decisions that resulted in the creation of a new safety culture. It’s a case study of a classic attitude from economics: just put a price on the harm—_internalize the externality_—and let the market do the rest.

There it is — internalize the externality — when someone is profiting via externalizing costs or harms, they are essentially stealing from others (either the commons or the specific people on whom the harm falls).

Ensuring that external costs are borne by those who create them is simply requiring that people creating business are actually ADDING value to society, and not simply extracting or stealing value by creating greater external harm than their products/services create.


Thus, accidents were typically attributed to worker “carelessness.” Even if partly true, this was a dead end in terms of understanding the causes and how to fix them. It would not survive a modern root-cause or “five whys” analysis. In modern parlance, “systems thinking” was lacking.

This way of thinking still appears to be common in US road/street design.


This is a summary of how the factories were made safe masquerading as a summary of why the factories were made safe. It comes to the Whiggish conclusion that factories were made safe because time moves forward. It mentions that the real reason was Workers' Comp., which made injured workers a cost for employers, and buries in a parenthetical that Workers' Comp was created by socialist union protests, and taken up by German politicians as a way to reduce the socialists' popular support.

It concludes with some weird-ass hypothetical conversations between the author and a made-up socialist that ignores that fact. In between, it implies that socialists and anarchists weren't responsible for the 40 hour workweek, either, without offering any evidence (who would need evidence that time moves forward?)

It's really an apologia for capitalism masquerading as a history of factory safety. Apparently it's because of attitudes and mindsets and lack of systems thinking that everybody had, including the workers. If the workers were universally fine with the situation, it's really strange that they protested in the streets until the general populace backed them to the degree that government had to adopt the policy for fear of being voted out.

edit: It's really telling that it starts with an anecdote blaming a child for his own death. You see, the child sat during his shift because one of the managers would let him. With proper systems-thinking mindset, he would have of course been forced to stand for 80 hours a week.


Really pathetic but unsurprising that people here are downvoting this comment. It's not often that you see an author constructing a literal straw-man these days; the piece flatly ignores the importance of the massively powerful labor movements of this period--so powerful that states were regularly resorting to armed struggle with them--instead pretending that "social reformers" existed in a vacuum.

Did we read the same article? The author addresses the labor movements and points out that they weren't very concerned with improving safety, sometimes worked against it and cites sources along the way.


See also the trend for offshoring production to countries that lack any safety standards or worker protections.

The only real progress has been that some companies try to cover up that they're employing child labour by doing it through third parties rather than doing it openly.


Thanks for posting this. I noticed that, install a guard was one of the last "if only" possibilities.

"P: Fine. There’s no need to get personal and blame “heartless management”. This isn’t the moral failing of any individual, but of a system...."

"I blame society."


Roots of Progress explores a fascinating and critically vital question, but does so under ideological blinders and using manifestly obvious rhetorical techniques (strawman arguments, blame-the-victim, historical revisionism) which hugely impair the entire project.

Tremendous potential. Miserable accomplishment.


This particular article is actually pretty informative ... until the dialog at the end. And in it, he's approving of a _strict liability_ scheme. I doubt most other pro-business ideologues would approve of a law that 'simplifies' legal disputes by mandating that the business always lose the case.

(In fact, there's currently an effort to overturn New York's Scaffolding Law, and the arguments fall in line with that detailed in the article -- victims are being negligent or careless, so why should contractors pay?)

The article is not without flaws ... Workers comp was a compromise that created strict liability, but also limited the compensation workers could receive for on-the-job injuries, so it can be argued that it was actually a windfall for owners at the expense of workers.


It is an exceedingly slanted narrative omitting much and painting a pointedly inaccurate history.

Just wanted to say thanks for posting this, I'm finding this incredibly fascinating. I can clearly see there's been so much ingenuity (and suffering) that's finally gotten us to where we are now.

I love reading about the industrial revolution and the social and economic change from the mid 19th to early 20th century, because you can draw so many parallels to the modern information revolution. The details of the story are different, but the outline is the same:

We've got massive progress and insane improvements to efficiency. The world as it exists now couldn't have been dreamed up half a century ago. On the other hand, there's also serious regressions caused by the efficiency, with novel problems that our society is ill-equipped to solve. All the while, we have a wild west business environment and the founders, executives, and capitalists leading the way are getting unfathomably rich as they make a land grab for ownership over the infrastructure and technology that enables our modern efficiency.


Do you have specific examples of "massive" progress and improvements to efficiency since, say, the late '60s?

I tend to agree with Neal Stephenson that "the threat now has become not too much innovation, but not enough". [1]

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TE0n_5qPmRM&t=333s


I wasn't alive in the late 60s but most things I spend all day doing were literally not possible for consumers until the 90s-aughts

Listening to music? Looking at television screens? Pushing typewriter keys? Playing videogames? Programming computers? Video calls?

While more expensive when adjusted for inflation, all were commercially available in the '60s. You could make video calls in Grand Central in 1964, even if you could only call DC or Chicago and it cost $5 a minute.

The future was already here, as Gibson observed. The internet seems like the last thing humanity invented. Every meaningful (commercially available) "invention" since then has been an internet application or appliance (or has by now been beaten in the marketplace by an internet application or appliance).


This past week:

I smoked ribs for the first time in my life. Despite having 0 bbq experience and being a relatively new owner of a charcoal grill, I for free and on a whim tapped into the nearly infinite font of human knowledge available at my fingertips to learn about the 3-2-1 method of competition barbecue and made amazing hickory smoked ribs. Without the internet I wouldn't have even bothered, and acquiring that knowledge would have required a trip to a book store or a personal contact with a BBQ expert.

I gave a tour of my newly renovated home to my mother who lives in another state and is in quarantine, having recently tested positive for covid.

I navigated somewhere I've never been easily using a handheld GPS which can navigate any modality (ie, bus directions and train directions for us city folk)

I drove 70 minutes to another state for a small collectors sale in my niche hobby and found something to add to my collection. I wouldn't have known about the sale, or hell even adopted this hobby in the first place, if I didn't have an internet group with dozens of strangers in my city all interested in the same topic.

I made two sales of items in said niche hobby to other hobbyists in my city. Absolute strangers I've never met before. I listed the item in the weekly "deal or no deal" style thread, after striking a deal I sent my address, and when they said they were on the way I left the item on the doorstep for them.

I watched a significant amount of TV without a single commercial break and on my schedule. Not pay per view either.

I left a message for my downstairs neighbor that the contractors are scheduled to show up Monday to replace their basement windows. My neighbors were in another state and got the message anyways.

I continue to work a job with my boss who lives in a other state (and has been for years).

These are all examples of "massive progress and insane improvements to efficiency" In particular with respect to information, hence why this is called the information revolution.


Most of what you describe could've been accomplished with sufficiently advanced telegraphy, optical media, and mechanical transport. Untenably expensive, but doable with 19th century tech.

The idea of "timeshifting" TV has been around since at least the '60s, Jeannie paused live TV one time so they wouldn't miss the game. But yeah, there's been innovation in "TV," though I suspect you're actually talking about videos on the internet (as opposed to DTV), and most of the recent moves seem to be massively empowering rights holders over viewers by shifting permanent ownership of physical media to fleeting licenses and subscriptions with terms that could change tomorrow. And, with the removal of the Paramount Decrees and decline of feature films + cinemas, we seem to be heading back to the bad old days of a studio system.

Satellite-based navigation, first implemented with GPS between '73 and '93, is a good example of innovation, and real advancement, after the late '60s though.


> Most of what you describe could've been accomplished with sufficiently advanced telegraphy, optical media, and mechanical transport. Untenably expensive, but doable with 19th century tech.

But it wasn't, which is the whole point


There's no reason to think telegraphs, physical media, and mechanical transport wouldn't have continued to scale and improve, merging in typewriters, punch cards (following Jacquard and Hollerith), CRTs, etc. As well as, say, high quality, "pro-sumer" sewing machines, machining tools, woodworking tools, etc. You know, the means of production.

Instead, analog technologies were strategically deprecated and phased out in favor of more easily surveillable digital alternatives, under the guise of "efficiency," in terms of energy and performance. Once a central network was put in place, innovation outside the network, in what we used to call the "real world," mostly stopped. It's all been fancier and fancier network protocols, applications, and appliances.

Everything is "smart," but under someone else's control. And the means of production are more centralized than ever.


We went from thousands of transistors in chip in 1970 to billions of transistors in chip in 2020.

Exactly. Transistors were invented in 1947, Engelbart presented on downscaling ICs to an audience including Moore in 1960, and he observed his law in 1965.

It's mostly held, transistors have incrementally increased as predicted over 50 years ago. This is consistent with Stephenson's observation that there's been no meaningful innovation since the late '60s.


This is like arguing in 1870 that there had been no meaningful invention since the Newcomen engine in 1712, just as the transcontinental railroad connected the nation.

I'm specifically arguing that there has been little meaningful innovation between the late 1960s and 2020s. Outside internet protocols, applications, and appliances, what's been invented since the late 1960s?

Between 1712 and 1870, interchangeable parts, bifocals, lightning rods, cotton gins, spinning jennys, carbonated water, thermometers, guillotines, parachutes, hot air balloons, sandwiches, mayonnaise, gas turbines, internal combustion engines, matches, electric batteries, microphones, typewriters, sewing machines, barbed wire, reflecting telescopes, stethoscopes, gyroscopes, mechanical reapers, corn planters, bicycles, telegraphs, postage stamps, photography, staplers, airships, gliders, light bulbs, traffic lights, Portland cement, the Bessemer process, and tin cans were invented. Watt's steam engine was an iteration, a few incremental improvements over Newcomen's design.

And then most of the inventions that shape contemporary life came between 1870 and 1970.


> Outside internet protocols, applications, and appliances, what's been invented since the late 1960s?

Do digital innovations not count as innovations? By that definition of course the digital revolution has not produced any meaningful innovation

Naturally, the industrial revolution has innovations that were related to industry while the information revolution has had innovations that are related to information.


Generally, the benefits of progress more than compensates the regressions (if any)

Very few people today, after knowing how people lived in the past, would make that tradeoff and go back

P.S: "rich = bad" is an awful proxy for the real underlying problems


> Generally, the benefits of progress more than compensates the regressions

That's certainly how this outline played out for the industrial revolution. The ending isn't written yet for the information revolution, but I do hope for the same.


We really do need liability for software.

To who? The company? The developer?

That needs to be figured out, but probably copyright holders.

Which software? Drone target acquisition or TikTok?

Web browsers, to start. Why are Apple and Google not liable for zero days of Safari and Chrome? How is it sane?

Grace period may be necessary, but it needs to happen.


You don't pay for these products though, which removes most of your options to seek monetary damages for <anything>. The same argument applies to nearly all [free] software - whether it's Chromium or curl.

I do pay for iPhone and Safari comes preinstalled on iPhone. Maybe either Apple should be liable for Safari or Safari should not be preinstalled on iPhone. You can't have it both ways.

Argh, it would allow another stupid round of “But the browser is built into the OS”.

> Web browsers, to start. Why are Apple and Google not liable for zero days of Safari and Chrome? How is it sane?

Is is even possible to make a browser without 0days?


Is it even possible to make an airplane that does not crash?

No. They crash all the time. You're suggesting that we hold airplane makers responsible for any and all crashes.

I didn't? I opined web browser "manufacturers" should be liable, like airplane manufacturers. That seems certain to me.

Whether automatic liability makes sense, as argued in OP about workplace safety, is less certain, but probably yes. Many zero days are triggered by just clicking a link. For such cases, it is hard to argue one is operating it wrong.


Computers can't be compared to airplanes because computers operate in an adversarial environment whereas airplanes don't. A computer crashing because of a specially crafted malicious request isn't really comparable to a plane dropping out of the sky. Consider another product that operate in an adversarial environment: locks. Should lock manufacturers be liable if their locks were pickable?

Occasionally they do (e.g. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17). Of course, no one would blame Boeing for that.

Being struck by lightning and hail sound plenty adversarial to me.

Meanwhile equifax and co just leave your data unprotected, no adversary required


> Being struck by lightning and hail sound plenty adversarial to me.

Not really. lightning and hail behave predictably. Attackers don't. Adversarial hail would be a hailstorm where the hail magically heat-seeked to the engine.

>Meanwhile equifax and co just leave your data unprotected, no adversary required

The parent poster argued for a much stronger statement than this, which includes only negligence.


I think physical metaphores are flawed, but lets just continue for fun: if planes were designed the way software is designed, what is the airplane plane metaphor for buffer overflow? You take too much luggage with you and the plane crashes?

What's the metaphor for privilidge escalation - you dress like a pilot and they let you drive?

Most hacks in computing are preventable by not using languages that are know to be unsafe or testing software priperly. We prioritiae features over safety or reliability.

They are not comparable to someone attacking a plane with a missile.

I think it should be clear to that designers of aircraft and airlines themselves take much more care and responsebility than software designer do.


>I think it should be clear to that designers of aircraft and airlines themselves take much more care and responsebility than software designer do.

But none of the attacks you outlined can actually be prevented by the manufacturer? eg. for luggage the manufacturer just provides a maximum takeoff weight, but that's only verified by the pilots/ground crew. The buffer overflow equivalent would be an app with a buffer overflow vulnerability, but it asks very nicely not to overflow it.


Pilots/crew are part of the system, the manufacturer provides specific guidance and training on handling emergencies. In this case the passenger is the equivalent of the user.

The buffer overflow equivalent would be an app written in a managed language like C#, where buffer overflows are basically impossible.


Both. All?

Granted, Hacker News is banned for causing depression in too many people :D

Mozilla went bankrupt because too many ~~idiots~~ outstanding citizens tripped and fell while using Firefox.

YouTube was banned for causing deaths with their irresponsible use of information.

Who knew fixing a car, building a high powered laser or eating a Tide pod is dangerous?

Not the users' fault.


Hacker News causes depression in me.

I learnt to code believing it would let me live a meaningful and productive life. I was wrong.

I see all these wonderful innovations happening and I miss out on their benefits.




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