How Long Should Things Last?

I was motorcycling through the Wisconsin countryside today and I saw a lot of older people, mostly farmers, standing in graveyards paying their respects to the dead.  There were also some small towns that seemed to be filled with large, ornate homes in various stages of decay and disrepair.  Do you want to build a house that lasts ten generations? There is no guarantee that future generations will be able to find work in these small towns.  I went past a couple of factories building pre-fab homes that slap together quickly and probably don't last too long.

I drove past scrap yards of old cars and farm machinery.  They have a beauty all their own, but the carcasses sure hang around for a long time.  Some people were doing construction on some buildings, and I thought of how nice it is to make something with your hands and see that it has some kind of permanence.  It might still be there after you are gone.

But nature does much nicer work.  You don't see piles of dead animals all over the place.  Even the roadside carnage is absorbed into the scenery fairly quickly.  Just like the old cars, all the good parts are stripped and the rest is left to rot.  Nature returns these incredibly complex organisms back into the system with great efficiency.  The death of our metal creations is much more protracted.

Maybe that is a good thing about software.  It dies without a trace.  If only the hardware were so well designed!