Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Politics of Problem Domains
(Picture from here.)
I ranted yesterday on Obama's new budget. There are some additional links and analysis and the actual budget in the Links of Interest section below.
I want to continue that rant a bit. Not because I think it will change anything-- that ship is clearly sailed. There are many articles discussing how Constellation is going to be shut down. The budget is cunningly built to ease the pain-- a high speed rail to Tampa to make the loss of shuttle workers more palatable. As if Tampa needed high speed rail.
I'm beginning to see a larger issue here.
In technical organizations, my preferred environment for the last thirty years, there is often the technical solution to the management problem. We'll use software or other technical mechanisms to substitute for bad management.
I'm beginning to think that these days we have management solutions to what is in reality engineering problems. Going to the moon, climate change, transportation infrastructure, etc.-- these are not management or political problems. They are technical problems. They are engineering problems. It is the determination of which technical problem to address and the parameters to work within that should be decided politically. A political system has problems managing issues that extend beyond the election cycle-- this is why we have agencies and bureaucracies. It's their job to act as frequency dampeners to the complex wave form of politics.
Since we are no longer a technical society-- Hell, we have difficult thinking critically, much less thinking technically-- the whole mess is left to the political process.
Here's how you solve a technical problem: you get a small team together. You decide on the limitations of a budget, the parameters of the problem and the operating boundaries of the problem domain. A deadline for a solution is imposed. Then, you get out of the way.
This doesn't have to be done by government. However, it is important to remember that large corporations are often no more efficient or cost effective than any other large institution. Prime contractors are no less willing to spend money than anybody else-- that's why God invented fixed price contracts.
Wall of Idiots
Blonds at the Times, original article here
V: Dueling Coroners
Robin Hood, Zombie Killer
Links of Interest
NASA reboot, here, here, here, here, here, here actual budget here
Advanced Space Propulsion Concepts
Understanding deep ocean currents
24 Hours... of physics
More dinosaurs => birds
V: You have been Scienced
V: The iPad
V: Dowdy Kitchen Man
Best Blog Entry Ever
V: Pneumatic robot walker
V: lathing zen
V: Les Trois Inventeurs
Power from work
Cheap analog pressure sensor
Spray on liquid glass