Basic Debugging

Day 259 Week 38 Q3 Sunday, September 17, 2023

It may sound obvious, but creative outliers tend toward complexity. And that means we can create circumstances that do not work very easily. And then, it is time to begin to do some debugging. Most apps can be reduced to simpler user interfaces. Most systems can unplug many peripherals as well. When things are not going right, you have to simplify. This is true for all systems, both human and electronic.

The best number of rules for any situation is the smallest number of rules that you can get away with. But this simplicity is not on the near side of complexity, it is on the far side of complexity. You have to actually deal with the complexity and recontextualize it so that it is possible to be simple without throwing away what is important.

The very active debugging requires eliminating many connected options that we have voluntarily added to our systems. It’s very hard to tell the cause of a problem when there are too many different causes and moving parts. You have to change one variable at a time in order to isolate what the cause of a problem is. As everything seems to be connected to everything else, it is difficult to change just one variable at a time. But this is what is required for basic debugging.

Just as the scientific method is falling out of favor among some populations, craving alternative facts is an oxymoronic statement. The scientific method for validating hypotheses, a fancy name for a wild-ass guess, is critical. It is very difficult to solve a problem without evidence of what is wrong and right. I once had a boss who accused many people of data-free decision-making, and she was correct. What was frightening about this is it was the faculty of an institute of higher education.

No one would think that the faculty of a college requires information to make decisions, but unfortunately, this is not always true because people tend to rely on feelings more than on facts. And when that is the case, basic debugging becomes impossible because nobody has any facts.  This is why, in academia, being a department chair is not necessarily a highly coveted position. Academics would like to deal with their research and their students and not have to get dragged down into administrative black holes lacking information.

Basic debugging is not so basic when it comes down to human beings. It is far easier to debug a computer than it is to debug a person. Perhaps this is why psychology frequently does not work. It is hard. People do not always answer questions truthfully. They don’t even misrepresent on purpose or even know because much of what they experience has an unconscious basis. I finally got the words, chords, and notes to record, only to be waylaid by a 60-cycle hum, which needs to be debugged.

Somehow, basic debugging comes up every day.