Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

Both insightful and convincing talk by Jonathan Blow about the path to mediocrity in the software world.

Main takeaways:

  • Left to its own devices technology won’t automatically improve, it would degrade. A lot of hard work and skill are required to make it better.
  • Losing skills and knowledge across generations is surprisingly easy, even in today’s connected world. Layers of abstractions are the main cause of this sad phenomenon.
  • The amount of accidental complexity in today’s software development process is astonishing 😭
  • The future is deeply mediocre unless we change something.

3 thoughts on “Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

  1. > Losing skills and knowledge across generations is surprisingly easy, even in today’s connected world. Layers of abstractions are the main cause of this sad phenomenon.

    So true!

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  2. Very curious to hear more thoughts around your takeaways and how they might apply to WordPress :). The whole talk made me think of a great book I read around how our current data storage methods are so precarious in the long run combined with the massive amount of data each individual creates. I’m reminded of this every time I go to my parents’ home and try to boot up old laptops or dig through external hard drives for photos only to need multiple connectors to get it to even work on my current computer. How do we reconcile what to keep and what to throw away in order to preserve culture, insights, etc? Related post on the matter: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210715-the-online-data-thats-being-deleted

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  3. The main trouble, as noted in the talk, is not so much that things change and vanish, but understanding, or the lack thereof.

    Parts of the physical world vanish and change, too – I know of milk’s expiration date and I can decide whether to use it or to preserve it somehow, maybe make yoghurt out of it and extend its life. Unless I am 5-years old and still haven’t internalized that milk will go bad. Or maybe I am lazy enough to check the expiry date. Or maybe I lived in a world where expiry dates don’t exist and I have to have an advanced smell skills to know if and when the milk will go bad.

    Given the complexity of the digital world, we no longer (or still don’t?) have the culture of understanding the layer of abstraction below and how it impacts our life and work. Without knowing how things work or what the possible issues are, we don’t have a chance to even try solving the problems ahead of us.

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