Hacker Career Advice

Longevity or Liability?

Invented in the 1960s, it took two decades for plastic shopping bags to catch on with major U.S. grocery chains. And once they did, they were everywhere. Strong, cheap, light, and waterproof—they were a big improvement over paper bags.

But now, plastic’s longevity has become a liability. 20 years ago, researchers discovered a plastic bag at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Nearly 7 miles straight down, in a mostly anaerobic environment, it may never decompose.

Technology tends to live longer than intended, too. The US Nuclear Missile defense system runs on 70’s era 8” floppies. Windows 3.1 still powers mission critical systems around the world. Once your tech is out in the wild, you can no longer control it.

Software development often plays out as “let’s get this product to market quickly and cheaply. We don’t need to consider the future / edge cases too much, because we’ll just refactor it later.” Don’t fall into that trap.

Take the longview upfront and consider the ramifications of your design decisions. The last thing the world needs is more plastic bags.