betterologist.net

Because we’re all in the software business, now

I trademarked ‘betterology‘ in 2006 because I needed software like HAL of 2001 A Space Odyssey or R2D2 of Star Wars.
My motive for writing this kind of software was based on self interest – my own decision making has never proved out to be as advantageous to my own well being as I would have preferred, at least, in hindsight. Having a HAL or R2D2 could make a big difference, to me, even if my first efforts at writing the software were crude.

But that was 12 years ago. Fast forward, and almost every business is now in the software business. Or, half the jobs are predicted to disappear in 25 years. You pick. By attrition or by migration, either way, we’re all in the software business, now.

Two, not one, set of tasks emerged

  1. The obvious task set – we are all building on each other’s software.  So, we write code…
  2. Humans have very specific physical and neurologically wired limitations.

For 12 years I’m writing software for #1, while thinking progress is inevitable. Hah! Not hardly.

Instead, I happen upon an enormous body of evidence from researching other people’s work, that any software that tries to address decision making is going to be a near total waste of time. Unless it can address the barely known issues in #2 above. Humans have very specific physiological limitations. Don’t offer software assistance to a human without first learning what those limitations are, or so I am learning.

Gravitas?

One could start with the Dunning-Kruger effect, thinking that would be enough, and then go back to writing code, which is what I wanted to do instead of reading why my code-writing would come to naught.

Lest you make the same mistake as I did, thinking you have more important things to worry about than the limitations of human thought, this:

Nobel prizes.
Best selling books on the NYT list, best selling authors.
… and we’re barely scratching the surface.

For every great piece of software being written to help us out, there’s a huge chance that it will be rendered useless because it just can’t account for the limitations of the humans that it is designed to assist. And these physical limitations are being acknowledged by some of the greatest thinkers and observers on the planet.

It would be my hope to summarize some of those highlights here, as my modest contribution to this field. More on this, below.

The Work We Share

Now that I’ve painted the picture that we’re all in the software business, and that we’re all building on each other’s work  – intentionally or otherwise – where are we, compared to the cute ideas of HAL and R2D2 like assistants?

One interesting fact is that so much of the work on the software side is evolving rapidly and without so much as a hiccup. I’d still like to point out some opportunities for some easy gains, but most of those will resolve even someone like myself just stands back and waits.

Most of the real gains, I hope to show here, come not on the software implementation side, but instead by acknowledging and compensating for human limitations on the design side of this work. This is not what I chose to work on when I started, but it may end up being where most of the value that I could offer lives.

If I succeed in future years and decades, I’ll be able to use the pages on this site to synthesize the limitations that I learned about from the great minds that I have been able to consume, and summarize at a level where it can help people who really couldn’t care less about it.

Or, like myself, you couldn’t care less about it, until it gets in your way. Then, you care.

Software Evangelism

Software systems come and go. Or we wish they would go, like our old computers that we just can’t throw away because they have those files or programs that we still might need.

Somehow, throughout my career I always end up in this weird position of being a software evangelist for some of the newer stuff that comes along.  Like right now it’s Web Components and Polymer/Lit, a new trend that has yet to establish any serious market traction.

So you’ll see some of that here. I’m not sure that it really makes much sense for either me or for you in the long run, but it’s what I do a lot of, so that’s why it’s here.