It’s the Process, stupid…

A great post by Linux Torvalds [to linux.kernel newsgroup] that I’d read today, (Somebody had it on their blog, but I really don’t remember where, sorry!) and am reposting here. Three reasons: (1) It’s one of those great biological metaphors* and (2) it connects with the point I had made before about a passage in Jared Diamond’s book Collapse & most importantly, (3) So I can find it again when I am looking for it! Here’s Linus replying to a critique that Linux is making progress through “sheer luck”:

On Fri, 30 Nov 2001, Rik van Riel wrote:

> I’m very interested too, though I’ll have to agree with Larry
> that Linux really isn’t going anywhere in particular and seems
> to be making progress through sheer luck.

Hey, that’s not a bug, that’s a FEATURE!

You know what the most complex piece of engineering known to man in the
whole solar system is?

Guess what – it’s not Linux, it’s not Solaris, and it’s not your car.

It’s you. And me.

And think about how you and me actually came about – not through any
complex design.

Right. “sheer luck”.

Well, sheer luck, AND:
– free availability and _crosspollination_ through sharing of “source
code”, although biologists call it DNA.
– a rather unforgiving user environment, that happily replaces bad
versions of us with better working versions and thus culls the herd
(biologists often call this “survival of the fittest”)
– massive undirected parallel development (“trial and error”)

I’m deadly serious: we humans have _never_ been able to replicate
something more complicated than what we ourselves are, yet natural
selection did it without even thinking.

Don’t underestimate the power of survival of the fittest.

And don’t EVER make the mistake that you can design something better than
what you get from ruthless massively parallel trial-and-error with a
feedback cycle. That’s giving your intelligence _much_ too much credit.

Quite frankly, Sun is doomed. And it has nothing to do with their
engineering practices or their coding style.

Linus

* Not just a metaphor, but an observation of a structural similarity in a process.

It’s the Process, stupid…

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