Any ambitious endeavor needs a good plan, but they are often either hard to create, hard to get right or damn impossible to execute. Things are changing at warp speed, derailing even the most bulletproof of roadmaps.
Faced with this uncertainty, people tend to :
- Create an elaborate plan, with multiple steps that need to be executed perfectly in order to succeed. Risk can be minimized by more research, so let’s do more of that.
- YOLO everything. Since I cannot be certain, why come up with any long-term plan?
The latter also tends to be a frustrated reaction to the futility of the former. Any complex plan requires multiple predictions to be correct. But if the success of the entire endeavor hinges on all of them being right, then it’s only a matter of time until it all fails. We’re all doomed. Might as well YOLO it.
Instead of throwing a tantrum, we can recognize that Elaborate Plan <-> YOLO is a false dichotomy. What you really want, is an antifragile plan. How do you create that?
Three principles of creating an antifragile plan:
- Feel the Base: What are the immovable requirements of your plan? What are the things you are dead certain about?
- Create Alignment: Things are sometimes uncertain, but the broad direction of where they are going is sometimes clear.
Ensure your decisions will be compatible or better yet – benefit from those trends.
- Conserve Optionality. Make sure it’s easy to change implementation details later. Go with simple solutions if you can.
By conserving optionality, you ensure, that the cost of changing a decision you take now is minimal. By creating alignment, you maximize the likelihood of them being correct in the first place. And by feeling the base you make sure that none of them are flat-out wrong.
Go make some decisions, and new antifragile plans. You can always change them.
Let’s send people to Jail, because THE ALGORYTHM can’t be wrong
As you might have figured out by this point, I am quite optimistic about technology. I think it’s a very long lever, that can help lift us up from some of the problems we currently have.
Unfortunately, the virus that is the bureaucracy has learned to use this lever, too. It’s a perfect weapon – Kafkaesque systems of the past have hidden individual enforcers behind a facade of an organization. But now, you can hide behind the almighty algorithm! Not only can you pretend that the mindless drone had to make a certain decision, because of processes – now you can pretend there was no human involved at all!
That’s exactly what happened at the British Post Office: Bad Software Sent Postal Workers to Jail, Because No One Wanted to Admit It Could Be Wrong. The most sickening part of the whole ordeal is that it was a convenient excuse!
There is evidence that the Post Office’s legal department was aware that the software could produce inaccurate results, even before some of the convictions were made. According to the BBC, one of the representatives for the Post Office workers said that the post office “readily accepted the loss of life, liberty and sanity for many ordinary people” in its “pursuit of reputation and profit.”
Why can’t we make up our own titles?
Is there any reason we can’t just make up letters and put them after our names? In recognition of our own victories and accomplishments. Why should old educational institutions have that exclusive right?
I have to admit, I have trouble coming with a title other than an Engineer (which I formally am not. I work as an engineer, but have only masters’ degrees).
Do you have a title you would like to award yourself? What’s stopping you? Let me know!
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.