Why We Can't Have Nice Software and the Importance of Security Questions

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

May 31, 2024

3 min read


Why We Can't Have Nice Software and the Importance of Security Questions

Software has revolutionized our lives, creating immense wealth and efficiency. However, this power and efficiency come with a downside - the inability to control its distribution. Once software is created, it keeps working with minimal maintenance and a small amount of electricity. This poses a problem for those who seek to monopolize the wealth it generates. The concept of software as a glimpse into a post-scarcity society is hindered by those who prioritize profit over fairness and competition.

Standards play a crucial role in software development. They allow multiple parties, including competitors, to have interchangeable components, giving consumers more options and negotiation power. Standards also minimize software churn, reducing the amount of labor needed for development. However, for-profit companies tend to dislike standards as they prefer exclusive, proprietary solutions that give them an edge over competitors. Underdog companies, on the other hand, benefit from standards as it allows them to compete on a more level playing field.

Blockchain technology has gained significant attention in recent years, despite its technical flaws and inefficiencies. The allure of blockchain lies in its wastefulness, as it requires exponentially increasing computational power and electricity to maintain the blockchain database. This waste is seen as a feature by investors, as it creates more work and churn in the software industry. Similarly, AI technologies like language models (LLMs) offer investors an ideal software solution that requires substantial capital and specialized hardware to train and run. The volatile nature of LLMs ensures never-ending software churn and profit potential.

The rapid advancement of deepfake technology raises concerns about security and authentication. Deepfakes, AI-generated fake audio and video, have become increasingly difficult to distinguish from real content. This poses a challenge to secure authentication methods that rely on audio or video streams. Secure authentication is essential for various situations, such as recovering wallets, approving transactions, and verifying identities in emergencies.

Security questions offer a complementary solution to the authentication problem. By asking questions that only the individual would know, it becomes a reliable method to verify their identity. Pre-agreed code words and duress keys can be used to signal coercion or threat. Verifying ETH addresses on multiple channels and guarding against man-in-the-middle attacks are additional precautions that can be taken. Implementing daily limits and delays on consequential actions adds an extra layer of security.

While security questions may seem like a traditional method, they tap into our natural ability to remember personal information. It is a human-friendly approach to authentication that can be seamlessly integrated into our workflows. However, it is important to note that individual-to-individual security questions differ from enterprise-to-individual security questions. Each person's unique situation requires customized shared information for authentication purposes.

In conclusion, the power and efficiency of software come with challenges in wealth distribution and security. The resistance to standards by for-profit companies hinders fair competition, while wasteful technologies like blockchain and LLMs create endless software churn. Secure authentication methods such as security questions offer a human-friendly approach to verifying identities. Implementing additional precautions and leveraging unique shared information can further enhance security. As we navigate the evolving landscape of software engineering, it is crucial to prioritize both efficiency and security to achieve the full potential of software.

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