In the August 2010 issue of Wired there is an interview with Fred Brooks. Brooks is a computer pioneer who first started working with computers in the 1950s. He wrote the “Mythical Man-Month” in 1975 which dealt with software design, but the lessons in it can be applied to other projects, too. His most famous insight is succinctly summarized in the Wired article: “you can’t always speed up an overdue software project by adding more programmers; beyond a certain point, doing so increases delays.”
The following exchange in the interview caught my attention.
WIRED: Did you ever expect it [the “Mythical Man-Month” book] to be read by nonprogrammers?
BROOKS: No, and I’ve been surprised that people still find it relevant 35 years later. That means we still have the same problems.
There are a lot of teachers that people claim are still relevant today: Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu, Buddha and others. Applying Brooks’ observation implies that we really haven’t come a long way when it comes to what they taught. If we still have to be told “You Shall Not Steal”, can we honestly say that we are an advanced civilization? It is hard to be optimistic about humanity getting together to solve any global crisis when we still are struggling to be nice to each other.