We Live in Software: Engineering Societal-Scale Systems
Software Engineering Institute
Societal-scale software systems, such as today’s commercial social media platforms, are among the most widely used software systems in the world, with some platforms reporting billions of daily active users. These systems have created new mechanisms for global communication and connect people with unprecedented speed. Despite the numerous benefits of societal-scale systems, these systems are designed to optimize user engagement and scale by using psychology (such as gaming and reward mechanisms) to influence users. Individual users struggle with privacy of their data and bias in these systems, while governments face new threats of misinformation. John Robert, deputy director of the SEI's Software Solutions, and Forrest Shull, lead for defense software acquisition policy research at the SEI, discuss issues that must be considered when engineering societal-scale systems.