Monday, December 15, 2008

Teaching a horse not to eat

My friend Ole told me this story many moons ago - and many times since:

A man decided to teach his horse not to eat anymore. Gradually he reduced the amount of food the horse got each day, and the programme worked really well.

Unfortunately, just as he had finally taught the horse not to eat at all something unforeseen and tragic happened to the horse and it died suddenly.

I was reminded of the story the other day when I was studying this article in my beloved The Economist (I've subscribed non-stop since 1983):

Stopping in a hurry

Dec 11th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Cars are getting better at avoiding collisions. Before long they may be communicating with each other to make roads safer

.... and somewhere in the article this is stated:

"Jan Ivarsson, head of safety at Volvo, believes it should be possible to build a car in which people will not be killed or injured."

On the other hand I can read in various newspapers that Volvo is not doing too well, and may in fact soon be either sold or closed, just like Saab. Or maybe Sweden will try to put those two together and create a small (by international standards) entity that might survive with state funding and what have you.

So you have this carmaker - Volvo - who has been making cars safer and safer and safer over the last several decades, and JUST as they're sensing the possibility of making the perfectly safe car - in which people will not get killed - the carmaker Volvo unfortunately died. Like the horse.

In my own, little world I have also been witnessing how perfect the databases are getting, how much they can do, how much stuff you can put into them in order to save on the application coding and development side - and how coders, developers and programmers have stopped using them. Just as databases were getting damn near perfect ... people stopped using them.

I have for several years now claimed that any computer technology that reached a state of perfection, a plateau of predictability & stability and a high level of usefulness ... will be replaced with something more chaotic and hence much less productive. I have seen no exceptions.

I now realise it is connected: Technology reaching maturty, car safety reaching its logical conclusion - and feeding of horses.


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Blogger Gints Plivna said...

Yeahh, time to start learning MySQL if you already haven't done that ;)

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Anonymous David Aldridge said...

From "technology that reached a state of perfection, a plateau of predictability & stability and a high level of usefulness ... will be replaced with something more chaotic and hence much less productive", I think you could usefully abbreviate to "expensive will be replaced with cheap or free". Possibly also "... replaced with easier-to-install".

It's all in the $'s

7:27 PM  
Blogger Dominic said...

People love complexity, they feel that striving to master it makes them virtuous. Once they achieve some level of mastery, they then feel superior to those who haven't. It's no fun if everyone can use it.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Daniel Fink said...

I am reminded of the quote from Douglas Adams. "There is a theory which states that if anybody ever discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."

I think the same applies for any computer system or technology.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

I work with IBM mainframes. COBOL, CICS, DB2... technologies that have had decades to become more and more reliable. Most new development is being done with Java, targeted at WebSphere on Windows, using one or another "persistence layer" to ensure the developers need know as little as possible about the DBMS. I weep for the future.

Jeff Atwood wrote on a similar topic.

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Blogger Cristian Cudizio said...

This is why Oracle regularly releases new versions :)

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Blogger Ben Prusinski said...

I agree- now with 11g, more things to break and require Oracle experts to fix databases. Funny, I am finding that clients need us more now than ever.

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Blogger david said...

a perfect trainer can only teach .like i use Australian Saddle this is what a trainer suggested me.

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Its a very good thing you are trying to teach to your horse.You can try out different techniques or hire a good trainer.

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