Computer Says OH NO!

The BCS Edinburgh Branch Sidney Michaelson Memorial Lecture (about Sidney Michaelson)

In partnership with the Edinburgh Science Festival

Tuesday 7th April 2020, 17:30 - 18:30

Speaker: Kevlin Henney, Director / Thought Provoker, Curbralan

Introduced and chaired by: Professor Bill Buchanan OBE, Professor of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University

Venue: Auditorium, National Museum of Scotland


Software is running the world — some would say eating it and spitting it out into the aether. We have come to think of software failure as a normal experience. But beyond phone apps crashing and servers becoming unavailable halfway through our online shopping sessions, what are the large-scale implications of failure?

A spreadsheet bug gave us austerity economics. An overlooked software detail knocked out O2's 4G phone network in December 2018. The WannaCry ransomware attack exploited a bug in Windows, infecting computers in over 150 countries and bringing the NHS to its knees. Software reliability is not simply a question of negotiating consumer inconvenience and business priorities; it has economic, social and cultural consequences.

What is it about software systems that leads to these kinds of failures? What are the moral and practical implications for those involved in software development? And when we talk of software systems, are we part of the system? In this talk, Kevlin Henney will explore examples of failures in software and its application, and how they affect us at different scales, from user to society.

About the speaker


Kevlin Henney is an independent software development consultant, speaker and writer. His contributions have influenced common software development practice, particularly in the area of code quality and testing. He has written and contributed to books on software architecture, programming practice and organisational culture. Kevlin lives in Bristol and online.



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