I got a new project recently that related to money transaction and conversions. And of course during the first week of working I already made a lot mistakes. What is new in those mistakes for me is that because we don’t have “staging” environment and I have to work with real “production” cases and every my mistake has a number now – how much did it cost to company?
It sounds as a very broken design, doesn’t it? I came to bosses to clarify that and got the answer that it’s better for company to have some loses but deliver new features faster. A new mindset for me.
I am going this way now but can’t get off the feeling of remorse when I do a mistake. After I made a new one last week that caused more loss then my salary is I felt uncomfortable again and even it seems that nobody cared I did a little bit research about “the price of mistake”.
I understand that in surgery the cost of a mistake can be much different that in my humble vocation, so I limited my research to the “program code mistakes”. And I found a few interesting.
- 4 June 1996 $370 000 000 caused by Integer overflow
- 3 December 1999, Mars Polar Lander. $328 000 000 caused by non initialized var
- There are a lot of such stories in the cosmic and flight industry (50+ cases), so I tried to find anything else and it was easy. Politics and friends:
- Pensions and welfare: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/3235394.stm
- American electricity blackout in 2003: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_blackout_of_2003
- Medicine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therac-25
The last one is especially terrible in my opinion. Patients have received more radiation then prescribed because of bad software. Don’t know why but it is more intimidating for me, more then rocket crash.
The idea that something can slowly kills you because of an obtuse programmer especially scary because everything nowadays is controlled by programs.
I wanted to comfort myself about my mistakes with this research, but looks like I even made things worse. Now I am glad that I don’t write code for hospitals, and all my mistakes just about money, but I lost the trust to anyone’s else code.
Have you ran into bugs that influenced your life?