Paul Chiusano

Functional programming, UX, tech, econ

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Unimaginative naysaying in tech discussions

[   tech   fp   ]            

It’s the early days of man, a chilly day, and Alice and Bob are attempting to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. It’s a struggle, on account of some freezing rain earlier in the day that’s left the sticks damp. Suddenly, there is a brilliant flash of light, and a mysterious portal opens up next to Alice and Bob. A Stranger steps through carrying a blowtorch.

The Stranger explains he is from the Future and has come to speed along Alice and Bob’s technological evolution. He demonstrates use of the blowtorch and has a roaring fire going within a minute or two. He explains how the torch works by burning a substance called butane.

Bob’s immediate response: “Look Stranger, I don’t know who you are, but I don’t like your elitist tone, and I’m going to keep starting my fires by rubbing sticks together. If I start using your so-called ‘blowtorch’, it’s going to be a real problem finding ‘butane’ fuel for it.”

New technologies can be vast improvements along one axis (starting fires efficiently), while simultaneously generating new fun problems to solve along another axis (obtaining butane). Being optimistic and willing to solve these fun problems is how progress is made. Unimaginative naysaying like Bob focuses entirely on perceived negatives of new technology, taking the current state of the world as a given.

Time and time again in discussions of technology, I see unimaginative naysaying:

Developing new technology means being open to seeing potential, and working to achieve it. Don’t be that guy!

And in closing:

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.

– Chinese Proverb

By the way, I will not be at all surprised when some commenter shows up to pick apart my analogy or one of my ha ha only serious examples.

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