Good enough > Perfect

Imagine the most perfect human being (brilliant, beautiful, charming, pleasant, intelligent, faultless) — s/he doesn’t exist, yet you do. In your flaws, imperfections, you’ve managed to accomplish the greatest feat: Life, Existence. You’re here, you’re alive. Nature doesn’t favor perfect, nature favors good enough. Nature favors you and I.

Nature doesn’t have time to be perfect, all nature has time for is a series of good enoughs. Supposing symmetry, as sometimes in art, were a sign of perfection it doesn’t always exist in nature: Our eyes aren’t symmetrical, neither each foot symmetrical to the other, yet nature doesn’t mind. It’s much more important to have the ability to see or walk than to spend time managing every single possible detail.

If nature were to miss the forest for the tree life may not be possible. Drawing an example from the evolutionary model, a single cell could not have had time to plan out the complexity and entirety of human existence/evolution. All a single cell could afford to do, albeit by chance, was to find the right conditions just good enough to advance to the next stage of life.

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.” – Alice Walker

Life itself can be simplified to a series of good enoughs, a series of lessons learned and experiences gained. Too often perfection can be the enemy of progress, overwhelming at best, unrealistic at worst. Mandela once said a worthy goal such as freedom “seems impossible until it’s done”. Time and history suggest a series of good-enoughs is just perfect to achieve a goal. Lao Tzu thoughtfully remarked that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. A series of steps, each step just good enough to reach the next step. Aesop the Ethiopian of antiquity told a common fable of a hare and tortoise in a race in which the tortoise, just good enough to keep moving inch by inch, defeats the fit and more “perfect”/able hare.

Like the fractal patterns typical in African Art and African Architecture a series of repeating patterns can be noticed in nature — a series of “good enoughs”. These self-repeating patterns are abundant from the curl of a wave, the veins on a leaf, to the shape of a snowflake. Our brains, lungs and circulatory system are all fractals. It is because of these good-enough patterns that repeat overtime that we deem nature “perfect”, efficient, superior and a great model for today’s digital world.

I would propose that in tech, as in nature and life, perfection is simply a series of good-enoughs. Software by standard isn’t perfect. This in large part is due to the unrealistic ability of testing out software against every single possible fault and criteria (and the costs of doing so). Software, deemed accurately, is a model of the world or a part of the world and the world, in every scale, is a very complex system.

Working in a startup environment I’ve seen our technology jump from infancy to the great product it is now, all through a series of good-enoughs. Despite the inherent imperfections of software, so imperfect that software engineering can hardly be classified as an engineering discipline, our lives are enhanced by the ability to video chat, access personalized content (videos, music, news), share pictures and shop online.

Examining the world at large, especially the developing recovering world, it’s not the best technology, millions in financing/aid/handouts or the “greatest” brains/scholars that are always needed. It’s just simple, good-enough ideas and technology, and the accompanying will, that can advance a population to the next stage, moving a society forward from one limit to another. Overtime these series of limits overcome become the perfection we seek and the perfect world we desire.

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