Abstractions Turned Obfuscations

There is an old saying in Silicon Valley, “There is the first 80% and the second 80%.” While it is really hard to create new technologies, it is also really hard to implement them for any measurable advantage. This has always been true: The steam engine didn’t matter until it was put into a ship and locomotive; the Wright brothers’ flight didn’t matter until it moved people; electricity needed to be delivered to the home; and telephony didn’t matter until there was a connection. However, the connection between invention and implementation used to be more obvious.

In the 1970s, complexity in technology reached a point that it wasn’t possible to move forward without abstractions. I was taught the beauty of abstractions as an electrical and computer engineer. Doped silicon where you are solving physics equations suddenly become transistors where you are dealing with 0s and 1s suddenly become chips where you are issuing instructions, then computers where you are writing code, and then user interfaces where you are clicking. It was a great way to deal with overwhelming complexity. The abstractions made it all manageable.

But now the abstractions are getting in the way.

We have converged on a world where the people who do the first 80% have no competency or interest in doing the second 80%. The SaaS industry is a frequent target of the Great Stagnation because it is chasing high margins rather than high value outcomes - which, to be fair, is a rational response to a punitive capital landscape that penalizes companies for deviating from a specific set of metrics. And it’s not just SaaS. The Defense Industrial Base underwent a financialization in the 1990s where the focus shifted to dividends and buybacks rather than innovation. I could go on. Lacking the incentives to allocate resources towards implementation, companies instead create an abstraction to define the “right” way to do something.

But when the abstraction isn’t tethered to empirical results or anything measurable and falsifiable, the abstraction is just an obfuscation, a cargo cult ritual.


Folksonomies: abstraction technology empiricism

/technology and computing/hardware/computer (0.855864)
/business and industrial/business operations/management/business process (0.806254)
/technology and computing/hardware/computer components (0.802157)

Steam engine (0.993144): dbpedia_resource
Electricity (0.992774): dbpedia_resource
Technology (0.987524): dbpedia_resource
Computer (0.981532): dbpedia_resource
Wright brothers (0.979206): dbpedia_resource
Obfuscation (0.961789): dbpedia_resource
Physics (0.957675): dbpedia_resource
Industry (0.953618): dbpedia_resource

 Technology is the Problem
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  SANKAR, SHYAM (02/02/2024), Technology is the Problem, Retrieved on 2024-02-02
  • Source Material [www.shyamsankar.com]
  • Folksonomies: technology abstractions


    28 APR 2024

     Abstraction Imperils Empiricism

    Abstractions Turned Obfuscations > Emphasis > Don't Let the Simulation's Beauty Convince You It's Real
    We live in a world of abstractions built on abstractions. These simulations take us further from reality and make empirical verification increasingly difficult.
    Folksonomies: abstraction empiricism
    Folksonomies: abstraction empiricism


    28 APR 2024


    Memes on abstraction, reality, and empiricism.