Hiltmon

On walkabout in life and technology

Unreasonable

There are two ways to deal with “the ways things are” in an environment where one can change them:

  • Find some way to justify or meekly accept them, however twisted and delusional they may be; and try to get on with things within those perceived constraints. They call this being reasonable as if it were a good thing.

  • Or find a better, considered, simpler way for things, which requires effort, argument, time, and sometimes blood; enabling one to actually get on with things with fewer constraints. They call this being unreasonable is if it were a bad thing.

The reasonable person in this context makes up, believes and is required to publicly support their own justifications. The reasonable person believes “The boss is always right.”, or “They pay me to do, not to think.” or “I’m sure there is a reason why I have to perform this mind-numbing process.” or “We’ve always done it that why, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” They assume that they cannot change “the ways things are”.

Sounds pretty unreasonable to me. It’s a cop-out. Bad for the person, bad for the business. I am a boss, and I am most certainly not always right! And many many processes have no purpose at all.

Progress, innovation, change, joy and great software depend on being unreasonable. They depend on thinking about what one does, questioning it, challenging it. They depend on identifying the underlying assumptions and justifications and then tearing them apart, regularly. If the “way things are” stack up after that tremendous attack, then maybe, just maybe, they can stay, for now. But the “way things are” rarely do.

Thanks to the unreasonable people out there we have an Internet and mobile phones and rovers on Mars. Thanks to the reasonable people out there we have bureaucracies and paper forms and religions and borders.

In my case, it was not reasonable to strive to gain an education that got me out into the world, it was not reasonable to go and live and work and experience life on three continents after leaving my original one, and it was not reasonable to design and create innovative hedge-fund systems for my bosses. The reasonable thing to do was to stay where I was, live where I was and do what I was told.

Boring. Sad. What a waste of a life it would have been.

Now is not the time to get all reasonable again and protect the status quo. It’s time to get more unreasonable, to accelerate the rate of change and innovation. It’s time to rethink everything, challenge all assumptions, tear down all rote justifications. We have the technology, the knowledge and the ability.

And I for one look forward to what we unreasonable people can come up with. There is nothing we unreasonable people cannot change, improve or fix if we set our minds to it.

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