You’re not thinking fourth dimensionallyDoc Brown


You're Not Thinking 4th DimensionallyWe can all be accused of this at times.  I surely can be.

Thinking three dimensionally is easy – we can view great works of art, sculpture, buildings, organizations, and even software easily. In the present, they are pinging our senses, giving us immediate impressions, touching our consciousness directly.

Thinking fourth dimensionally is more difficult – we must use our memory and/or our imagination to extrapolate the way things were in the past or how they could be in the future.

Further, when we do extrapolate from the past into the future – we tend to only see two states – how things were in the beginning and how they are in the end.  The great masterpiece of musical achievement was first nothing – then it was a masterpiece.  The great sculpture was first a piece of rock and then it was David.  The great man was a boy and then he was the legend.

To truly be fourth dimensional thinkers, we have to realize that whenever anything great is built, it is built slowly, over time, with a long series of intentional steps – slow, intentional steps that are discovered through the course of the creation.

Great software practitioners are great fourth dimensional thinkers with regards to the software they build, the organizations they exist within, and most importantly with their own character.  That is – as a software engineer we are constantly, with a series of small, intentional, discovered-as-we-go steps, building three things:  our character, our organization and our software.

The antagonist from Star Trek: Generations – was a rather surly alien, obsessed with escaping time, and so told Captain Picard (who had just lost his family to a house fire) – “They say – ‘Time is the fire in which we burn’”.  Nice, right?

I disagree – I say, time is the fire in which great works of beauty and accomplishment are forged!

The catch though is that the two faculties that we use to think fourth dimensionally are both muscles that we must exercise regularly – memory and imagination.  They don’t develop on their own.

So will you commit with me to exercising our memory and imagination in service of making ourselves better practitioners of the art of software, and making our software more amazing?

-Kyle