The Vast and Endless Sea
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
This is all I am trying to accomplish with my blog. When I recount stories from my experience, when I giggle with delight at a new discovery, when I describe a different way to solve problems… All I am trying to do is share my own yearnings to sail over the horizon and see what there is to discover.
And de Saint-Exupery puts it best when he describes the sea as vast and endless. It is truly about the journey, not the destination. It is fascinating precisely because there is no answer, no best way, no way to decide “we have arrived, we are done.” I know with certainty that when I end my journey, when I go to my rest, there will still be unsolved problems of software development.
In On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins explains how the human neocortex matches visual, audible, and kinaesthetic patterns—and replays them to form the basis of prediction. He makes a convincing case that the neocortex is the single most important distinction between humans and other species… and therein explains what makes humans human.
For me, software development is an activity carried out in our minds. Our “sea” is the human brain. All of our tools and processes are ways of engineering thought and communication. The software we build in turn is a way of guiding thought and communication.
I do not say that there is no Engineering in software development. But I can say with confidence that there is room for considering it a form of Applied Psychology, or perhaps a specialized branch of Cognitive Science. And what greater journey is there than the exploration of how we think, of how we solve problems, of how we communicate and coördinate our activities?
Certainly there are practical considerations. Ships do need wood. Sailors must work with a purpose. Software must get built, and it must validate phone numbers or ensure that transactions conform to ACID semantics.
But yet, the allure of our work is the sea and the mysteries it contains. Thank you for joining me on the voyage.