Dark Software: Roundtable Tuesday, January 18, 2016 11: 00 AM

It's only the beginning of the year, but a leading contender for the word of 2016 may be dark. Dark is everywhere these days:

  • Politics: Dark money is money raised by individuals, campaigns and various groups that is untraceable (or traceable only with great effort). Who's spending that money? Who's receiving it?
  • Communications: Dark fiber is fiber optic cable that is not currently used. Some of it was bult as fiber-optic networks have been built out. Because so much of the cost of laying cable is on the engineering side along with labor, over-building makes a lot of sense: The cost of the cable itself may be only 10% of the total project cost.
  • Cosmology: "Dark matter a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes, but accounts for most of the matter in the universe." (Wikipedia). Is that like this hypothetical bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you?
  • More cosmology from Wikipedia and the Planck mission from the European Space Agency (ESA): "The total mass-energy of the known universe contains:
    • Ordinary (baryonic) matter - 4.9%
    • Dark matter - 26.8%
    • Dark energy - 68.3% (we won't go there right now -- takes too much energy to get there)"
  • Technology: Dark software. Mostly unknown but often essential it's all over the place. Sometimes it's used (and occasionally misused or causes problems), and oftentimes it just sits there unused having been created and sold at great expense. Ian Foster at Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago writes a summary of his work here focusing on dark software in extreme-scale projects. (There's a link to the full paper here.) Jesse focuses on the dark software in commonly-used software such as word processors, spreadsheets, website development, chat support, and much more. This dark software represents a waste of time and energy in its development and testing, opportunities lost for end-users who don't know about it or use it, and in many respects, a drain of resources as the same basic utility software is written and rewritten (and tested and retested) ad infinitum.

Joe Donahue and Jesse Feiler discuss dark software on The Roundtable, Tuesday, January 18, 2016 at 11:00 AM.