In her latest book, The Philosophical Baby, Alison Gopnik points out that babies are far from self-centered, myopic beings. In fact, they exhibit all of the characteristics (both good and bad) of adults. In fact, they are in some ways superior. Babies, Gopnik would assert, have malleable, complex minds and a drive for discovery, and are enthralled by every subtlety that surrounds them.
Gopnik compares babies to the research and development department of the human species, while adults take care of production and marketing. Like little computer scientists, babies draw accurate conclusions from data and statistical analysis, conduct experiments, and are even capable of counterfactual thinking (the ability to imagine different outcomes that might happen in the future or might have happened in the past).
In short, babies can
· Observe their environment and absorb salient facts,
· Connect consequences that stem from the events they have observed,
· Predict future outcomes based upon the previous observations and their consequences,
· Develop a vision for the future – develop predictions based upon “what if” scenarios based upon hypothetical (versus observed) events and consequences.
(The fact that babies have these innate characteristics is consistent with the evolutionary perspective on creativity that I already discussed in my earlier entry Software as Fiction)
So why are good developers just big babies?
Good developers move beyond the strict functionality of the code that they write – they move beyond higher order concepts of system quality – they even move beyond caring about and optimizing their work to maximize the value of the code they write. They have the ability to imagine wholly different worlds where the underlying assumptions, constraints and, by extension, their criteria for success may be completely different. This is what we call a “market disruption” like the Internet, cell phones, etc…
In short, good developers can
• Unit test (observe)
• Profile applications (consequences)
• Calculate business impact and mitigate security risk (predict)
• Develop a vision for the future – develop predictions based upon “what if” scenarios based upon hypothetical (versus observed) events and consequences.
This is why its always good to let developers have some play time (and some milk and cookies too)
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