Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Of wheels and fortunes

[I wrote this comment a while ago, but left it hanging. Rather than letting it die, I just throw it into the mix (to show a life sign if nothing more).]

I was inspired by this post about reinvention (stumbled upon it, probably via reddit). An interesting point, addressing many states of affairs of the past, present and future.

To me "gratuitous reinvention" is a "mixed curse". In general much can be lost by the reinvention of wheels. But it is definitely healthy with competing ideas, problem formulations and solutions. In times of surplus, the risk is unfortunately quite big to overlook the fact that thorough thought processes have already addressed situations that seem novel when first encountered. When this leads to incompatible diversification (as opposed to interchangeable alternatives), much is devalued. This is something one should always be aware of, both when choosing among existing solutions and embarking on own adventures of invention. With that in mind though, quests of the latter type may very well lead to a specification of what needs to be solved, and how. At that point, (re)visiting existing work is a wise course.

Keeping it simple (enough but not more) is a fine ideal. But keeping it integrable is also very important for the evolution of infrastructure — where complexity can evolve without necessarily leaking down into the component parts.

Choosing right tools for jobs reasonably means taking paths that lead to a minimizing of energy expenditure — over time. Time is where the real trickiness comes in. Sometimes, when your intuition tells you to, you have to make leaps of faith. This is true in life as well as in art. Whatever those two things are. Wheels and fortunes.