Computer Says Oh No! | Edinburgh Science Festival

An intriguing look at software systems and development as they impact our modern world.

Software is running the world but why is it still crashing?



A spreadsheet bug gave us austerity economics. An overlooked software detail knocked out O2’s 4G network. The WannaCry ransomware attack exploited a bug in Windows, infecting computers in over 150 countries and bringing the NHS to its knees. In October 2020 an overlooked limitation in Excel led to COVID-19 cases being underreported.

Software reliability is not simply a question of consumer inconvenience and business priorities; it has economic, social and cultural consequences. So what is it about software systems that led to these failures? What are the moral and practical implications for those involved in software development?

In this Sidney Michaelson Memorial Lecture, author and software consultant Kevlin Henney explores mistakes in software, its application and how they affect the different levels of our society.

Kevlin Henney is an independent software development consultant, speaker and writer. His contributions have influenced common software development practice, particularly in the area of code quality and testing. He has written and contributed to books on software architecture, programming practice and organisational culture. Kevlin lives in Bristol and online.

About Sidney Michaelson 1925-1991 (

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Jul 08 2021


12:30 pm - 1:15 pm

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