Hubris

hubris
"The one who cried wolf might be tainted forever for demonstrating the audacity to confront the Hubris."

A certain Hubris seems to come with owning a system. It's yours, after all, and reason insists that it should attend to you by providing that which its designers intended it to provide for you, except systems don't actually work like that and never have. To own a system seems to be the equivalent of being owned by that system, in all the nuanced ways being owned entails. It's always got your number and always did. You quite understandably expected toast from your toaster but instead received a three smoke alarm wake-up call. Blame the toaster and see what that gets you. Resolution will demand inconvenience. You or some service representative (or, more probably, your spouse) will roll up their sleeves and get to the bottom of the difficulty, presumably forestalling any repeat performances. You'd be wise to anticipate repeat performances, though, because your toaster isn't so much first a toaster, but a system, and all systems come with unintended consequences built right in, albeit often unwittingly. A system, you see, remains capable of outwitting even its designers, for once that system roams free in the world, it will no longer find itself constrained by the breadth of its designers' imaginations. It seems to develop a conniving mind of its own.

Systems seem to insist upon a certain level of humility on the part of their owners, a wariness, a caution.
Any automatic pilot carries at lest as many points of potential failure as its manual counterpart, and between the manual pilot and the automatic one, the combined potential numbers in at least the multiplicative product of the individual shortcomings, but more likely many more. Of course, not all system failures carry the smudgy pall of a malfunctioning toaster. Many bring much worse. Most, much better. But the cock-sure certainty that I am the master of any system's universe means, simply, that I remain a master of no universe at all. Not my original universe before being amended by my beloved system and certainly not my universe after the damned system's imbedded within it.

Every object qualifies as a system. My garden rake, which eases my soil tilling efforts, also holds the potential of soundly whapping me in the face should I exhibit the Hubris of leaving it lying around in tines up position. I must therefore remain mindful of a certain humility necessary to avoid receiving a bruise running from forehead to chin, a wound that everyone will readily agree was all my own fault, though I might insist that the rake gave to me. But even strict observance of known safety-enhancement measures cannot and will not protect me from the wrath of even that simple system. I might avoid the formerly acknowledged dangers while blinding myself to the as-yet undiscovered ones. Rakes seem much more insidiously clever than anyone thinks. Humility seems such a SmallThing, and even a little ego-bruising all by itself, but it represents the tribute every system demands. Deny it to your own peril. No system cares what you think, feel, or believe. This acknowledgement alone could serve to justify sliding down a peg o two on the Hubris continuum.

All systems fail at least convenient times. Heading off a system failure doesn't really count, though those measures most certainly seem to out-smart the system failure at that time. How ever many successful co-opts one executes, another failure lurks, and it will not come when you're crouched in readiness, but when your back's turned, when your defenses are understandably down. Reaction time amplifies the system failure's effects, since, depending upon how high you ride your horse, the ratchet back down to humble servant status burns some of the up front response time. Until those sleeves get rolled up, no difficulty's gonna budge an inch. My friend Peter De Jager's started podcasting an
Autobiography of Y2K, Y2K being the meme for the now notorious "computer bug" that frightened western civilization in the years leading up to the year 2000. It's a story of interlocking and interacting Hubris in the face of perfectly innocent systems which were merely doing what their designers insisted that they do. Undoing even an innocent assumption amplified ten trillion times, takes an indeterminate amount of time and effort, but simply must be done, at least must be done once all the multitudes of denials have run their courses. Anyone who's ever managed a project recognizes the forces at play. A humble technician reports a devastating possibility to a system's owner, and the owner demonstrates the Hubris common to all system owners. Resolution emerges from what feels like a downward bidding war which leaves the system owner's Hubris deflated and the system chucking quietly in the background. The one who cried wolf might be tainted forever for demonstrating the audacity to confront the Hubris. (I strongly recommend Peter's podcast.)

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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