ruminations about architecture and design

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

how humans make progress

The debut of the latest iPhone gives us an opportunity to consider how we actually move culture forward--very slowly, by increments, and by the inputs of many people who will be forgotten. I regard our obsession with heroes a bit silly and anachronistic. When we were small tribes of hunters and peasants it made sense to acknowledge the achievements of the Big Man or Big Woman who could make a real difference to the group. Steve Jobs was never a Big Man--he just thought he was.

I'm reading about how the CIA discovered the mole Aldrich Ames after a lengthy and exhaustive investigation. The book, written by Sandra Grimes and Jeanne Vertefeuille, is plodding, bureaucratic, detailed, repetitive, and indispensable. Please note that I use those adjectives in a positive way in an effort to highlight how things actually get done in the real world. If they had proceeded in any other way they would not have been successful. Few members of Congress of the media could possible understand that.

While I am skeptical of the utility of Heroes, I do believe in Villains. It is far easier for some malicious bastard, or deeply stupid idiot, to completely mess things up to such an extent that no group of people, no matter how motivated or dedicated, can put it to rights.

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