Long term thinking in Engineering and War

Comparing consultants in the Iraqi war and your large software project

As of late I have found myself becoming more and more obsessed with long term thinking, across different themes. For example, nuclear energy and fracking. I can see short term benefits. We can get some energy here so we don’t have to fight for the oil (and use it) over there! It’s clean! (riiiight) No worries! (riiiiight)

When one accident can harm the environment with so much force, and for such a time period, it makes you think. Why aren’t we doing everything we can to get to solar and sustainable friends?

When I wear a “long view” hat I find that I often change my priorities. Education becomes the number one cause, a basis of all else. You could argue that an eco attack could kill us all, but I would argue that it will take education to accelerate the species and give us better odds of deterring or dealing with an attack.

It was thinking about “Grandpa Dion” instead of “Dion Today” that got me on track with my health. Delay the gratification, enhance your future.

I was talking to a veteran from Iraq the other day, while sitting in my engineering offices and there was a collision of worlds. The topic was on the disastrous situation that we are now in with Iraq and Isis, and how poorly we have handled the situation all along. You probably remember Paul Bremer and how kids were sent in to govern. One thing that you can’t expect in a situation like this is to parachute some out of towners and expect something to be fully fixed in short order. If you are thinking about the long term you know that you need to partner and help build the system up. We hear about this now…. about helping arm the locals and building the troops up, but man it is a long slog.

Finally, we get to software engineering

I have seen the same problem with large companies and bringing in consultants. There is a subtle mismatch between the management thinking:

  • “these guys will come, fix the problem, and then we will be setup!”
  • “these guys will come, fix the problem, and lets just pay them forever as we don’t know what we are doing”
  • “let’s use their expertise to solve a problem with us, and build a great partnership so we can work together for the long term and the tide rises for all”

The balance between full timers and consultants, and the will of those people, is so often out of wack.

The older I get as an engineer, the more I favor an architecture that is adaptable and allows me to try new experiments over time, over heroics.

I will continue to push myself on the balance of thinking long term, but not so long term that you are dead before you get there.

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