Saturday, December 7, 2013

The "Tyranny" of Knowledge and Reason

WS writes:
I thought Happiness is a glass half empty might be suitable for the "and now for something completely different" part of the site.

Sadly the museum of failed products doesn't contain any software products, but I suspect that if it did, it would contain a lot of products that were going to definitely replace the relational model. I also suspect that many of these products would be reiterations of previously failed products marketed under a different name.

I think there are also some interesting points about how some people believe that their talents are innate and others believe that anything can be learned, given enough time and effort. I wonder if there is some connection between overestimating one's abilities and believing one has an innate talent for some discipline. From my own personal experience I would say that I have often overestimated my abilities when I believed I had a gift for some subject. If I have struggled hard to master something then I generally have a better idea of how much I still have to learn.

I have also found that having a better knowledge of the theory of data management has helped me to see clearly at the start when something is doomed to failure.
If 'replacement' is used in the theoretical sense, I've always claimed that an alternative to predicate logic and set theory as a formal basis for database management is a rather tall order, to put it politely. What is more, if DBMS designers and users don't even know what a data model is, or that database management is impossible without one, what is the chance that some such alternative will emerge?

If used in the implementation sense, we can't really talk of replacement of what was never truly and fully implemented and adopted--SQL is hardly it. As to relabeled reiterations, those who don't know the past...

In general there is an instinct to believe better of oneself than is justified. It is an important objective of intellectual development, of which the scientific method and theoretical foundations are a core element, to bound that tendency and bring overestimation closer to reality. This explains the common disdain of many data professionals who are only tool trained, but not educated, for what I refer to as the tyranny of knowledge and reason, that "robs them of their "freedom" to do whatever they happen to think is best"to achieve the purpose.

The article refers to failed consumer products that "nobody wanted to buy". There is an important difference between most of those and technological foundations on which they are based: either you like them immediately upon use, or you don't--it's a matter of sheer, opinion, preference, or taste. The same attitude to theoretical foundations can lead to serious trouble which will materialize in the long term. It is training without education that tends to induce the notion that nothing but innate talent and practice/experience are sufficient for competence.

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