fittest vs fit enough

In science we talk about “survival of the fittest.” But really, in human evolution, it is survival of the “fit enough.” Once a particular characteristic is good enough to keep us alive, then selection of other things will be more significant. There are many factors at play, and which one matters in a particular group and time is about random circumstances.
Like, why are our teeth so much work, and why do our gums recede and our teeth rot as we age? I wish nature had spent more time selecting for long-lasting teeth and less for high testosterone.

As people, we have something nature doesn’t: imagination. We can imagine and build teeth of metal. Natural selection often stops at “fit enough,” and it is humans who strive for perfection.

In our work, we have choices. We can aim for “fit enough ” or we can take the time and the risk and shoot for perfection – or at least the “fittest” the world has yet to see.

In evolution the unit of selection is the gene. The time scale is centuries. These days that’s so slow it’s irrelevant. The modern unit of evolution is the idea, and ideas evolve on scales of weeks to decades. 

Where better for ideas to evolve quickly than the software industry? Ideas are our medium and our subject matter. We have choices: we can aim for “fit enough” at the safe point in the technology curve, using Best Practices and languages that have been proven useful. Or, we can aim for “fittest” by taking risks on more advanced languages and practices.

Waterfall used to be “fit enough” for all business software, until the Agile people looking for something better hit on a new “fittest” solution. Now Waterfall is falling off, and people are aiming for a new “fit enough” that’s better than before.

Java brought memory management from the edge into the mainstream; now garbage collected languages are “fit enough,” and we’re looking for better concurrency support among the modern “fittest” contenders.

We can be safe and survive with what the industry has deemed Best Practices. If we want to excel, we need to aim higher. Let’s keep our teeth sharp and strong with imagination and constant growth. The goal is constantly moving, and so are we.