An engineer attempts to re-document an undocumented factory.
The first step is finding out what the plant's name is. It turns out that the name most engineers use is just a colloquial name based on its location, and it has another official name. Several of them, even. There is the name of the internal project that designed it, and the name of the joint venture under which it was actually built.
There was a unique ID assigned in 1998 as part of a document-management revamp. There is another unique ID, assigned in 2001 for digitization purposes. It's not entirely clear which document management systems are current, incidentally. Also, some of them point to other document-management systems.
No luck here. The 1998 ID points to documents located in a "library" at an address that hasn't existed since long before 1998, which might explain why that 2001 ID doesn't point to any digitized documents older than some recent reports on routine maintenance. At the time, I had naively hoped digitization would solve our problems forever. My manager was reading a dense book about it that I picked up out of curiosity. It had seemed persuasive.
The tale would be utterly delightful if it were in a satire. As it is....there had been changes of ownership, the documentation was gone, and all that was left was folk knowledge of how to keep the petroleum factory going. When management wanted to streamline a process, they found they didn't know enough, and called in a retired engineer.
Fortunately, engineers keep more documentation than they're allowed to. They care more about keeping things running than absolute protection of company secrets. So the engineer still had his documentation (as engineers do), and could contact other engineers from the same plant who had other pieces of illicit documentation.
Then he had to smuggle it back into the company library because the documentation was something he wasn't supposed to have.
I've been worrying about infrastructure neglect for a while, and I was going to say that it's a menace which is at least more immanent than climate change (though entangled with it), nanotech, or unfriendly artificial intelligence. I was going to do a theme of "we are screwed, we are so screwed", but then I remember that it's good to quantify predictions, at least roughly, and I have no idea how to do it with this one.
Infrastructure neglect is a problem, and is going to be a worse problem, but any thoughts about how bad it's likely to get? Assume a universe which is difficult but not actively malign.
I found the essay because Brad Hicks
linked to it, but the original link
was dead for a day or so, and I like the essay enough that I'm including a complete copy. ( Collapse )
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