Completing each other

These two posts crossed my path recently, and seem related:

First, Quinn Norton has a terrific essay called Everything is Broken. This is the central point:

It’s hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire.

Computers, and computing, are broken.

In fact, she goes on to suggest that people are broken too. In the sense that we are easily confused, mistaken and not as rational nor as consistent as we’d like to think. A point made by Oliver Burkeman here: Everyone is just totally winging it, all the time.

I see a lot of relationships and organisations come to grief on unrealistic expectations of people. We set unreasonable expectations of others and blame their faulty characters for not meeting them.

I experience relief when I accept that of course things don’t go to plan. The alternative is to be yelling at my phone or computer many times a day. To say nothing of friends and colleagues.

We might, however, be mindful of language. To call someone “broken” could be seen as harsh, and since it applies to all of us, we might prefer to think of ourselves and others as incomplete. We then get the chance to try to complete each other, not in some perfect way but in the way humans do.

To me the amazing thing is that the technology, and even more the people, collaborate as well as they do, given how “faulty” everything is. And I think that while we may be “winging it”, as Burkeman suggests, we are often winging it more brilliantly than we give or get credit for, given the circumstances.

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