Design, Development, Theory

On Your Way at Last – Pariah Dogs and Wandering Madmen

Technology and how we use it really are the same.  If we risk nothing, we don’t innovate. If we don’t innovate, we just use technology to exist.  So how do we avoid stagnation and instead summon up that sense of bravado?

“A Life without Risks, is an Existence without Life” – Neil Peart

“On Your Way at Last” is a phrase from another recently read book, but I think it does a nice job of embodying the sentiment of spirit of this adventure.  Lets get on with this show, and start putting some rubber to the proverbial road.  The universe is comprised of 118 known atoms, look around you and look at all the wondrous things exist.  Technology can be the same way, if we use our imagination.  The challenge lies it forgetting all you have learned and using your instinct and imagination to help you navigate.  So lets throw out that Atlas and GPS and use our instinct and our sense of adventure to start the process of building systems the way nature builds them.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. – Henry Ford

“Leave their expectations at the door”  when you start your adventure.  It’s not about hitting every sightseeing icon that “might” be close to your route.  If we attempted to visit every landmark, museum, etc… between where we are today and where we want to end up we would never get there.  When this real world situation is explained users get this analogy, but when it comes to technology they seem to think that it is a mandate to do it all, much like children in the backseat of a car, they only seem to know a few phrases, “Are we there yet?”, “Can we do ….?”, “But why Not?”, etc…  These but name a few of the many comments you will hear on your journey.  It is your responsibility to help your users understand they don’t want a faster horse.  This can be challenging, there is always the few that believe there is a “White Knight” out there who can ride in and save the day.  Don’t get frustrated this is just the first of many calamities that will head your way on this grand adventure.

No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness. – Aristotle

Yes, madness may be a term used when people speak about you, why are you not doing this or that, why are you not listening to their desire for a faster horse.  You must use your imagination to navigate these shark infested waters, but you must remember you are the sanity in the room, even if they do think your going mad.  It is now that critical stage where you have to determine your first road that you will take.  All the planning and studying have led you to this point.  Finally it is time to start the engine and let the journey begin.

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius…and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. – E.F. Schumacher

Even though our adventure may be big and very complex, our journey should never reflect it.  Lets start with the dread concept of vision, it is a word used like it is a piece of tissue that we all have sitting around when we sneeze.  Truth be told Vision is a much simpler and bolder than that, most people think a vision must also contain details, or even a plan.  They are wrong, a vision is merely a shadowy moment of clairvoyant thought where we can see the destination as though we were standing in its presence, even though we are miles away.  To be able to strip away the veil of misdirection, indecision, etc… and perceive your destination is the hardest thing in this approach.  Even once you have achieved it, you must accept the reality that your vision is still tainted by many external factors, but once you have reached that point you’re ready to make the next step in your journey.

So now that you have reached your first sign post, you must face the reality that this is not the end, it is simply just a milestone.  You must take your first reality check, look at where you are, survey your route, check the environment, and once you have taken all things into consideration adjust your route to accommodate this new reality.  Now comes your first lesson, at one of these check points your going to realize your way off your target route.  Regardless of how you got there, your still off course and now you must correct your route to deal with it.  This now means you have not only lost time, but you have also wasted valuable resources.  How do we avoid this is the art in this process.  If your clever you will discover the more often you come up for air and check on your situation the less likely you are to being blown off course.  Sure we can always find some reason of how we got there, but honestly we have nobody to blame but ourselves for going to far down the rabbit hole.  As engineers we have a sense we can accomplish anything, and yes in most cases we can, but it is this instinct that is our own downfall.  This over confidence allows us to become diluted into thinking we are always on the right course.  We go to many miles, write to many lines of code, or design to me style sheets before we come up for air and find out we are out of bounds.  Now don’t stress early on this will happen, it is part of that unlearning process you have to go through.  Thinking Big is great and what you want to accomplish, but the discipline to Act small is imperative to your success.  The universe it built from Atoms, those Atoms make Molecules and those Molecules make Life.

The measure of the moment
Is a difference of degrees
Just one little victory
A spirit breaking free

– Neil Peart