Welcome to Jurassic Park

As a kid, when I first watched Jurassic Park, I was enrapt. This, of course, is a really unique thing that makes me very special. Anyway, there's the obvious draw - fucking dinosaurs. But, teeming just below the sex appeal of lawyers getting eaten by vicious T-Rexes is something bigger and more appealing to me - an oceanic sense of discovery, progress, and the feeling of what it might be like to sit with some of the brightest individuals in their respective fields and have them toss around ideas that have real consequences and real rewards. The story is a celebration of scientific, mathematical, technological, and engineering processes and it really manages to get at the heart of something else too: These processes don't occur in a vacuous space where rudimentary knowledge is recited repeatedly or even valued necessarily. The crux of everything presented is experimentation in the face of chaos. There's an overwhelming sense of "Hey, look guys, I found a flamethrower. I wonder what this button does?"

Of course, you're probably thinking, "Gee, isn't the point of the story sort of that that approach turned out to be a huge fucking mess?". Well, the characterization is actually pretty spot on when you think about the way that problems are approached in the real world. We don't actually know what the hell is going on usually. People constantly try to cover over this simple fact. But, the reality of science is that all of the machinery involved basically reads like a field guide entitled, "How to figure out what the hell is going on within a reasonable degree of certainty" which is just another way of saying, "We don't actually know what the hell is going on. But, historically when Jim has kicked the vending machine the Reese's cups have fallen out and we like Reese's cups and we don't really see any reason to question a good thing."

And, if we asked mathematics the same question, it'd probably say, "I never said that I knew what the hell was going on. I only said that if I knew what the hell was going on then this other thing would certainly happen as well. Go ask the scientists if you want to know what the hell is going on. Although, be forewarned, they are actually pretty full of shit. But, historically they've been decent at pulling it off, so, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

Same Old Boring Shit

For most people, day to day work is probably going to be pretty boring and repetitive. A lot less thought goes into breaking ground and a lot more thought goes into how to produce results consistently within a framework. Producing results consistently is definitely a problem in its own right, but most of that actually comes down to having the presence of mind to be very careful and actually knowing what it means to be careful. Being careful is definitely something that's worth discussing but it's also definitely a huge topic that I'm not even going to touch here.

So, anyway, we kicked the vending machine, the candy fell out, and now we've hired a bunch of vending-machine-kickers. But, it's hard not to notice from time to time that we still don't actually know why the candy falls out. We just know that it does and that it does pretty consistently.

Breaking Ground & Breaking The Rules

In the act of scaling things the underlying process tends to become really concrete. We don't know why it works but we know that it does and now there's a right and a wrong way to kick the vending machine. Depending on who you talk to, there might even be specific shoes you need to wear. Or morning exercises you should navigate pre kicking. "Best kicking practices". You're no longer the person who did a fun thing and got a fun result. You're now the person who needs to do it the exact same way every time so that we can get the same result.

Okay, fine. We want consistent results and that's really valuable. But, look, we still don't know what the hell is going on. And whoever told us that there was a right and a wrong way to kick a vending machine was sort of fundamentally wrong because they actually don't know how the hell it works either. That's not to say there isn't value in getting a consistent result - there definitely is. But, there's also a lot of value in shaking this process up and getting a new result. There's also huge value that comes from fucking it up just to see what happens. It's really easy to get totally lost in somebody else's framework for consistent results and totally lose sight of what actually works for you.

So, do consider "best practices", "reproducible results", and DRY. But, don't let those things define your process. If you want to set the dinosaurs loose on the lawyers to see if the laywers run faster under duress and you've got the laywers to spare then good for you. You do you baby.

Fuck it up. Give yourself permission.