They ask us for quality. What is “quality”? “Well, free of defects.” (Oh it’s a lot more than that.) What is a “defect”? “Well, when it doesn’t work like we expect it to. Like we agreed it should.” Trust me, you didn’t specify how it works. That’s my job, as a developer. To organize all … Read moreOne Secret to Quality Software
Avdi Grimm describes how the book Vehicles illustrates how simple parts can compose a very complex system. Another example is Conway’s Game of Life: a nice organized grid, uniform time steps, and four tiny rules. These simple pieces combine to make all kinds of wild patterns, and even look alive! These systems are complex: hard … Read moreFrom complicated to complex
We prefer simple models to complicated ones. Circles to ellipses, a single ancestor to a soup. But is that really because the simple explanation is more likely? The value of keeping assumptions to a minimum is cognitive. Philip Ball, The Tyranny of Simple Explanations Simpler theories are more useful because we can think about them … Read moreMoving beyond simplicity
Soft skills are hard. “They take work to build and work to apply.” @ruthmalan The word “hard” describes sciences like physics and chemistry. It is confusing that “hard” can mean difficult, because these sciences aren’t more difficult than the “soft” ones like sociology and anthropology. They’re differently difficult. The “hard” sciences are hard because they’re … Read moreSoft, or hard like mud
In a complex system, we can’t predict consequences. As Cynefin expresses it: in complexity, we determine causality in retrospect, not ahead of time. So how do we make decisions? We have to guess, try things, see what happens, react to that. We use reasons and heuristics. There are some consequences we do predict, and these … Read moreReasons, heuristics, and revealed intentions
A few hundred years ago, we decided that circular causality was a logical fallacy. All causes are linear. If something moves, then something else pushed it. If you want to see why, you have to look smaller; all forces derive from microscopic forces. Yet as a human, I see circular causality everywhere. autocatalytic loops in … Read moreGrowth Loops: circular causality is real
In Why Information Grows (my review), physicist César Hidalgo explains that the difference between the ability to produce tee shirts vs rockets is a matter of accumulating knowledge and know-how inside people, and weaving those people into networks. Because no one person can know how to build a rocket from rocks. No one person understands … Read moreWhen knowledge is the limiting factor
a telling question. This puzzler says something about our culture. It says we think in terms of causes that happen before their effects. That we don’t believe in reflexive causality. In life, everything interesting is a circle. The mitochondria breaks down sugar, the proteins use the energy, they keep up the cell wall, the cell … Read moreWhich came first, the chicken or the egg?