March 03, 2015

Corollary of constant change

We should know this, I thought. I imagined other, better experts who could do this job more quickly. But the guilt passed. I’d been doing this long enough to know that, pitiful as we were, we were it. The three of us struggling through the running of this database on a new operating system, flipping through incomplete documentation, using trial-and-error settings of options – this was what passed for expertise in our business….

…The corollary of constant change is ignorance. This is not often talked about: we computer experts barely know what we’re doing. We’re good at fussing and figuring out. We function well in a sea of unknowns. Our experience has only prepared us to deal with confusion. A programmer who denies this is probably lying, or else is densely unaware of himself.

Close to the Machine, Ellen Ullman (108, 110)

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