Software nibbles, hardware devours

Software hasn’t (yet?) eaten the world, it seems, the past decade’s trend line notwithstanding. Software has nibbled, it’s set itself up and spread, but if broad-based economic and social underpinning is some kind of measure, and if we’re the sort to rely on data before intuition, software is still a smallish element in the complex ecosystem.

The evidence speaks for itself. After less than two months of physical lockdown in varying forms and degree, global economies are on the brink. The thing that’s keeping the edifice from collapsing is the promise of a lockdown lift, and the sustenance of money printing, neither of which are particularly leading edge or even different from what would have been the case 100 years ago.


The day-to-day realities are influenced by the software spread, it’s true, but within limits. Our products and interactions are software reliant, increasingly so and in many places even dominant, but economically the outcome still feels light and often superficial.


It isn’t breadth, software is everywhere, it’s the depth. Even in medicine, where software and data science have no doubt expedited progress, the limit is still as it ever was, at the borderline of biological beings, which, like the economic bodies, are rich and complicated and inescapably hardware based.

Perhaps the comment that It’s Time to Build is a statement on this very challenge (coming from the author of the software eating of the world observation), or, more prescriptively, a comment on the need for hardware and software to keep up in lockstep.

For now, the damage and entrapment have been physical, defined by biological constraints, despite the help of software in small ways to make the living easier. For now, it seems, immunization isn’t digital quite yet; but if necessity is the driver of invention, maybe that is on its way… limited perhaps, for now, by constraints of market capital.