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The Spy's Laws
Rick Sutcliffe
(updated periodically)

The Spy's zeroth law--A law on making laws

The Spy accepts as common wisdom two laws on making laws, for which he claims no particular credit:

0.a Make as few laws as possible.

0.b Use law for protecting the helpless against the greedy and powerful rather than the other way around.

He offers:

The Spy's first law--on Stupidity

Thou shalt not legislate against stupidity.
or, more accurately
It is usually stupid to pass laws against stupidity. Don't do it.

(First mentioned here in Nov 2003.)

Comment: the fact that almost all laws are in fact passed to combat some piece of stupidity does not negate this law.

Corollary (presented as statistically obvious):
Drugs (including tobacco and marijauna) and alcohol impose a tax on intelligence, but gambling is a tax on stupidity.

(First mentioned here in approximately this form Mar 2009.)

The Spy's second law--The open source law

Eventually, all useable software will be open source.
or, more generally
All sufficiently useful systems eventually open.

(First mentioned here in June 2004.)

The Spy's third law--The survivability of battle plans after contact with the enemy

The practice of theory never matches the theory of practice.

(First mentioned here in June 2004.)

The Spy's fourth law--The Marketshare Law

(degree of application directly proportional to size of purchase; applies the most to big ticket purchases and ideas.)

Marketshare lags mindshare by two to five years, though on the downside, the slope may be precipitous.

(First mentioned here in Jan 2005. Second part on the downside added here in July 2018)

The Spy's fifth law--The Law of Large Projects

Every sufficiently large monolithic project eventually becomes unuseable, unmanageable, non-maintainable, and non-upgradable.

This has the following consequences, known as the Planning to Fail Corollaries

(i) Sufficiently large proposed projects lacking a modular design will never be completed in the first place.
(ii) The more resources committed to an ill-planned project, the worse it gets before it dies.
(iii) In such cases, only statistical estimates can be made of the number of bugs.

(First mentioned here in May 2005.)

The Spy's sixth law--On the Futility of Copy Protection

All data and code can eventually be copied.

(First discussed in 1983, but first put here in this form August 2005.)

The Spy's seventh law--On the Utility of Utilities

A utility's hazard rating is directly proportional to its usefulness.

(First mentioned here in September 2006.)

The Spy's eighth law--On speed limits

All VonNeumann bottleneck bypasses traverse parallel routes.
orParallel processing is the silicon speed ceiling's only workaround.
or When the slowing gets tough, the tough get multiprocessing.

(First mentioned here in March 2007.)

The Spy's Ninth Law--On selling wicked-successful products

KISS but LUCE--Keep it simple for starters but let us change everything.

(First mentioned here in February 2008.)

The Spy's Tenth Law--On computers as appliances

Computers are not toasters. They're compound sliding mitre saws.

(First mentioned here in this form November 2008.)

The Spy's Eleventh Law--On humans and specialization

Effective fourth civilization professionals are educated as generalists. They train and specialize via their appropriate choice of tools.

(First mentioned here in this form May 2012.)

The Spy's Twelfth Law--Planning for catastrophe

It's not just that failure to plan is planning to fail, it's also that failure to plan for failure is planning for catastrophe.

(First mentioned here Aug 2022.)

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Last Updated: 2022 08 02