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Abstraction, indirection, and Sevareid's Law: Towards benign computing

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Abstract

Computing is one of the primary means by which we solve problems in society today. In this short paper we examine the implications of the primary techniques used in computer systems work - abstraction and indirection - and of Sevareid's Law, an epigram that suggests that our problem-solving instinct may be leading us astray. We explore the context of this dilemma and discuss instances in which this has arisen in the recent past. We then consider a few design options and changes to the normal mode of computer science practice that might enable us to sidestep the implications of Sevareid's Law.

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