The long and winding road: Accidents and tinkering in software standardization

Sergi Valverde


Software is based on universal principles but not its development. Relating software to hardware is never automatic or easy. Attempts to optimize software production and drastically reduce their costs (like in hardware) have been very restricted. Instead, highly-skilled and experienced individuals are ultimately responsible for project success. The long and convoluted path towards useful and reliable software is often plagued by idiosyncratic accidents and emergent complexity. It was expected that software standardisation would remove these sources of unwanted diversity by aiming at controllable development processes, universal programming languages, and toolkits of reusable software components. However, limited adoption of development standards suggests that we still do not understand why software is so difficult to produce. Software standardisation has been limited by our poor understanding of humans’ role at the origin of technological diversity.


software standards; software development; programming language; complexity; evolution of technology

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