Eclectic Curiosity

Posted on April 5th, 2003, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

From programmer, professor and consultant Gerald M. Weinberg‘s 1975 book An Introduction to General Systems Theory:

No approach, be it analytic or synthetic, can guarantee a flawless search for understanding. Each has it’s characteristic errors. By taking the grand leap based on our faith in the order of the secind degree, we may often be completely wrong, but at least we shall find out soon enough. If time is of the essence, the slow-but-sure method of analysis may only guarantee that we cannot possibly arrive on schedule. Lord Rayleigh once remarked that:

It happens not infrequently that results in the form of “laws” are put forward as novelties on the basis of elaborate experiments, which might have been predicted a priori after a few minutes consideration.

This is the characteristic error of analysis. Though in the long run it always rewards our patience, in the long run, as Keynes noted, we shall all be dead. Therefore, those who are impatient with precise methods are attracted to the general systems approach, but mere impatience is not enough. To be a successful generalist, one must study the art of ignoring data and of seeing only the “mere outlines” of things.

Quote pulled from a post by Scottish software developer Alan Francis at the site TWELVE|71.

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