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Create fake stuff (that’s all you can really do anyway)

Hi Folks,

So, you’ve been tasked to create a model of weather patterns. Your deliverable is an XML Schema. People will then use your XML Schema to generate XML documents and exchange those XML documents.

Ah, the world will be so much better with the ability to exchange standardized weather data.

But how will you model weather? What will your XML Schema contain? You do not have expertise in weather science. How long will it take to gain the expertise to create a useful weather model? How deep into the field should you go?

Answer: Give up. You have no hope of ever understanding weather. Even if you are already an “expert” in weather science, you have no hope of truly understanding weather.

Allow me to explain.

But first, a detour.

1 + 1 = 2

Obvious, right?

Not at all. It took two of the most brilliant 20th century mathematicians (Whitehead and Russell) 300 pages to prove that 1 + 1 = 2.

I have this note next to my desk, which I read every day:

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize
               till you have tried to make it precise.

Scientists, mathematicians, engineers, philosophers, sociologists, and others recognize the futility of tackling reality head-on. So instead they invent miniature – fake – worlds, containing small sets of fake symbols and fake rules. They then manipulate the fake symbols, according to the fake rules, to see what kind of fake results they get. Sometimes there is a correspondence between the symbols and rules in their fake world to things in the real world, and so the results they derive in the fake world are then applied to the real world (with the caveat that it might be completely wrong).

Don’t be deceived (or have the conceit) to think that you fully understand something. You don’t. You’re understanding is appallingly shallow. Mine as well, of course.

Okay, back to the weather XML Schema. You will never understand weather. Abandon such ambitions. So what to do? Answer, invent a miniature – fake – world, containing a small set of fake symbols and fake rules. Create an XML Schema for that fake world. If you’re lucky, exchanges of your fake stuff will have utility to others.



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