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Archive for February, 2010


IT is just ‘Biology 2.0’

   Posted by: wkossen    in Uncategorized

Mr Darwin
Photo by Badly Drawn DadI don’t know if it’s just instinct, but we humans have this sincere need to limit the amount of variation in anything we do. Ever sincy we started to live in stationary communities and worked our way up to professional farmers, we have been trying to eliminate variation as much as possible. Selecting the finest crop and weeding out the bad ones.

When after many centuries a certain Mr. Darwin explained to us that evolution actually depends on variation, nobody wanted to believe him. And we still don’t. Yet nature does what nature does best, defy human efforts towards standardization. And somehow we do the same. We come up with new stuff regularly and we call it progress.

But every time something new comes up, certain people start crying out that ‘this will replace that’, ‘this will win over that’ or ‘this must be phased out because of that’ etc.. It is a habit we’re born with, comparing things and classifying them as either good or bad. Recently I saw another example on LinkedIN Answers. Someone asked the community there whether PHP will win over .NET. I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed. Why can’t different species coexist and share an ecosystem where both can prosper? Why should the whole IT landscape be a monoculture?

And of course, it shouldn’t. Monocultures have significant disadvantages. We have seen that in agriculture a lot of times. One disease figures out a way to attack a certain crop and because of the monoculture kills every single plant or animal. This sort of thing has caused famine, disease and mass migration in humans and still does from time to time. Monocultures are vulnerable because the variation in disease resistance that occurs naturally has been selected away. This gives viruses and other pests a good chance to have an impact. Did you wonder why computerviruses are called just that? And why do they thrive in ‘monoculture’-IT-Landscapes?

In fact, there are more links to biology in the IT terminology field. How about bugs?

what about farms. What about LifeCycles, In fact we are also using biology-derived scientific fields like Taxonomy for IT related things as well.

We have these ‘climate-change’ like discussions on Google Chrome versus Microsoft Internet Explorer, and about Linux versus Windows. We have the Evolutionists versus the Religion-buffs when it comes to different development platforms. I guess there’s nothing new in IT when it comes to these subjects. So maybe, just maybe, we should learn a thing or to from biology, agriculture, and most of all history. Maybe variation isn’t a bad thing after all, maybe it brings stability while actually supporting us best. Maybe standardization aimed at minimizing variety is at least in part a bad choice that should be made carefully. Maybe we should ‘relearn’ choosing in the first place. (And I’ll come back to that in another post, promise!).

What about you? Don’t hesitate to comment below!