bananen, auto’s en heartbleed – het probleem van de mono-cultuur

Wist jij dat er een verband is tussen bananen, auto’s en een computerbug? Ik ook niet, totdat ik op zaterdag 12 april in de Quartz-nieuwsbrief de volgende prikkelende analyse van een persoon genaamd Tim Fernholz kreeg te lezen:

On Monday, the makers of the most widely-used security software on the web announced a bug — Heartbleed —that exposed millions of people’s data and passwords, perhaps the worst breach in the relatively young life of the internet as we know it. On Wednesday, Toyota joined GM in recalling millions of its cars. At this pace, more cars will be returned to automakers by Americans this year than ever before.

And have we mentioned bananas are dying out?

The global economy seems to lend itself to these situations. How did your passwords get exposed? A volunteer working to maintain open-source cryptography software made a simple error. For two years, no one noticed, but millions of companies were relying on it (because it was free) to protect customers’ financial transactions and Facebook pictures. Why so many faulty cars? In part, because cheap mass production demands the same parts be used in as many cars as possible: In GM’s case, millions of ignition switches just 1.6 millimeters too short. Why are we losing our bananas? Industrial farmers and poor countries alike have largely relied on just a single species of banana, the Cavendish, that is easy to grow and transport—but quickly succumbing to epidemic disease.

It won’t be the first banana species to have gone virtually extinct, let alone the first monoculture crop to prove vulnerable. But the Heartbleed bug and mass car recalls stem from a similar over-reliance on one variety to maximize efficiency. In the case of cars and bananas, the cost of fixing the problem at first seems too high, but then becomes both enormous and unavoidable; GM’s decision to delay addressing its ignition problem because it cost too much brings to mind Ford’s dallying over the Pinto recalls of the 1970s. With Heartbleed, the cost is still unclear. What is clear is that in a globalized, standardized, monoculture world, one unexpected error can quickly become everyone’s problem.

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