Nothing is ever easy

John D Cook laments that Stupidity Scales:

I’m fed up with conversations that end something like this.

"Yes, that would be the smart thing to do, but it won’t scale. The stupid approach is better because it scales."

We can’t use common sense because it doesn’t fit on a form.

We can’t treat people like people because that doesn’t scale well.

We can’t use a simple approach to solve the problem in front of us unless the same approach would also work on a problem 100x larger that we may never have.

If the smart thing to do doesn’t scale, maybe we shouldn’t scale.

I have heard that explanation a lot in my professional life as well. It is a reason why things become complex, because we are trying to forestall unlikely problems, but we do so for every imaginable problem.

John has also noted that paper does actually have some advantages over digital systems:

Sometimes people demand a web application when a piece of paper would do just as well. People have thought I was out of my mind when I suggested a task could be done on paper at 1% of the cost of developing a custom web application. I guess paper is just vulgar.

There are some good comments on that post, I especially like the one about trying to locate a punch card reader. As long as you can locate a copy, you can read any book you like of any age, but trying to read a computer file more than 10 years old can prove quite challenging. In order to keep digital files useful, you need to keep copying them into new formats continually. Monks transcribed books over and over as well, but at least you didn't need to go track down a floppy drive to read an old manuscript!