Computer, heal thyself
July 14, 2004 | Source: Salon.com
Why should humans have to do all the work? It’s high time machines learned how to take care of themselves.
“For at least three decades now, programmers have joked of ‘heisenbugs’ — software errors that surface at seemingly random intervals and whose root causes consistently evade detection.
“The name is a takeoff on Werner Heisenberg, the German physicist whose famous uncertainty principle posited that no amount of observation or experimentation could pinpoint both the position and momentum of an electron.
“‘A lot of the bugs we’re seeing in modern systems have been plaguing programmers from the beginning of time,’ says [Armando] Fox, the head of Stanford’s Software Infrastructures Group. ‘The only difference now is machines just crash faster.’ …
“‘Today’s systems have too many dials to watch; people can spend their whole lives figuring out how to make a database run well,’ [Steve] White says. ‘We want to stand this notion of systems management on its head. The system has to be able to set itself up. It has to optimize itself. It has to repair itself, and if something goes wrong, it has to know how to respond to external threats.
“If I can think about the system at that level, I’m using humans for what they’re good at, and I’m using the machines for what they’re good at. That’s the idea here.’”