The Backchannel is the Message

Status 451

chinese-whispersThere’s a pernicious problem in rule making: it is much easier to introduce a rule than to remove it. To borrow a phrase from Pascal, “if I had had more time, I would have written a shorter rulebook,” and this applies just the same whether those rules are meant for computers or for people. The fewer parts there are, the less they can interact in surprising ways.

If we lose sight of this in our rule making, we invite the same kinds of pathology we see more readily with technology. We suffer exploits due to unforeseen consequences, and we are prevented from fixing them due to an ever growing maintenance overhead. Rather than try to untangle the resulting monolith of interactions, often the only compassionate action is to take it out back and put it out of its misery. If too many people are invested, though, this rarely happens, and we…

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