Bugs in embedded systems can be naaaasty

In 2003, the pacemaker of a woman in Japan was accidentally reprogrammed by her rice cooker.

Computers are getter smaller and smaller; embedded systems are getting more and more powerful. That means two things. First, what you can do on a computer of given size n is increasing over time: maybe five years ago it was just a microprocessor with 4KB of RAM running custom-built assembly code, whereas maybe in five years it’ll have a gig of RAM and be running OpenBSD or (shudder) Windows. It’ll have more features, more complexity, more failure modes, less security, and in essence, we won’t understand it any more. Second, the smallest systems producable are getting smaller all the time: today you can put that custom-built system with 4KB of RAM into a smaller space than you could five years ago, and in five years time it’ll be smaller yet. That means computers are appearing in more and more places, and more invisible.

The interesting part is when you put these trends together, so you end up with millions of systems flowing through your bloodstream, all running Windows 2020 (or whatever). Yay.