Editor 15. April 2017
25 St. James's Street
London SW1A 1HG
To the Letters Editor:
Your breathless enthusiasm for "Silicon Valley's fruitful 'go fast and break things' style of innovation," which in your view "is possible only if firms have relatively free rein to put out new products while they still need perfecting," ("Why Computers Will Never Be Safe," The Economist 423, 9035 (April 8th 2017), page 9) reveals a "go fast and break things" attitude toward research into this issue.
On the ground, the consequences of this approach to innovation are: misleading advertising claims about the "innovations" the new product promises (why bother telling the truth if IT firms can't be held legally accountable for the reliability of their products?); hence the use of customers as unpaid guinea pigs who are forced into troubleshooting the many flaws the product in fact delivers (having been forced to purchase it in order to preserve compatibility with other such products); hence the clueless irresponsibility of the customer service providers at the official product support hotlines to whom these customers appeal for help (if the creators of the product can't be bothered to find out what's wrong with it before they release it, how can the help desk be expected to repair it?); hence the growth of a subsidiary IT consulting industry whose technicians can offer no guarantee of or responsibility for the reliable functioning of the product (the best they can do is issue that warning at the outset); hence the modus operandi among these consultants of a trial-and-error approach to its repair (which surpasses the customer's only to the extent of their more extensive experience with the product's many flaws); hence a predictably decreased expectation among creators, customer service providers, IT consultants - and, of course, customers - that the product will function properly (the younger generation of technicians has virtually abandoned the very concept of a properly functioning IT product as unrealistic and excessively demanding); and, worst of all, the customer's helpless acquiescence in this scam ( thus providing plenty of financial incentive for the creators to churn out ever more inferior products, but no incentive of any kind to improve them).
My most recent IT consultant (one of several over the last few years, all under 40) has warned us not to upgrade my MacBook Pro computer because more recent models are less reliable. He has warned us not to upgrade our Outlook 2011 email program because that will destroy its database - this, after installing a second account in this program caused our servers, our other software programs, and our back-up hard drives to crash. Four months after this debacle, we are still cleaning up the rubble. This particular email program is so bad that there is a firm devoted solely to helping customers escape from it (for interested readers, the name of the company is OLM Extractor Pro). I am 100% certain that your report on this matter has generated many other letters like this one, with equally bad or worse horror stories about other products. Is THIS The Economist's considered conception of "innovation"? Caveat emptor, indeed.