Embracing Complexity

A portion of a reconstructed Difference Engine,
built from Babbage's working drawings in 1991

Recently, there has been a video clip circulating on the various social media entitled “The Most Honest three and a half minutes of television ever.  It is a clip taken from the TV Series “The Newsroom”.  While it is political in nature and some may disagree with various statements made, I want to focus on one quotation from the video.

“We aspired to intelligence. We didn't belittle it”.

From the technology perspective, the current popular trend has been to “keep it simple”.  Software companies are busy removing deep functionality from their offerings.  User Interface designers are charging down the path of eliminating all but the simple choices.  In short, everyone is trying to create the magical red button.  Push it and it magically does whatever you want it to (assuming the designers know what you want to do).

There is  a natural disconnect between the logical limitations of what hardware and software can do versus that Magical Red Button (MRB We are discussing technology, so we might as well create an acronym).  If you endured a software implementation at your business, you are already aware of that wall that looms in the distance of what you want vs. what you can have.  This disconnect has led to user frustration and in all probability to the evolution of MRB.

The fault in this evolution is that we are belittling the customer, the user.  We are not educating the population with the understanding of the power and limitations of software.  I believe that users have an obligation to take responsibility for how they use software and more critically how they capture the information stored in the software.  We need to educate them so that they can better understand the benefits of the software and use it to their advantage.

Not long ago, I put together a two hour training session for a few of my clients at that time.  It  was called, “Business Relationships".  The session focused on the information that they used on a daily basis, on how that information related to each other and then finally how those business relationships were managed within the software.  The training program worked extremely well.  The users took ownership of their information and began to establish business practices focused on the correct methods for capturing the information.

Software systems can be complex.  Complex systems can bring about significant improvements in the day to day world.  We should not be moving away from complexity but endorsing complexity.  Life is not easy. The great thinkers of our past sought out complexity and thrived in its challenges. Charles Babbage's Difference Engine did not have a "MRB".  We need to challenge ourselves and aspire to intelligence. If our country is going to not just survive but to aspire to greatness in the next century we need deep thinkers and complex systems… not that Magic Red Button.

About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.