Quest to Save the World from Bad Code
A super hero’s choice
I’ve always associated the world of technology with characters from the Marvel movies. Technology to me is like having a superpower and the ability to save the world. Or, if used badly, destroy it. Looking at the state of the world as it is today, it feels as if technology is more used to destroy than create and sustain life.
But we can change all that…
The fear and the waste
First there was the fear of the singularity. Now it is robots taking over the world.
A decade or so ago plastic was our primary waste as a result of the industrial age, with all of the plastic that has ever been produced still not decomposed, trying to hide the problem and ignoring the consequences until it became so big that we couldn’t ignore it anymore.
Today, a waste far bigger than plastic is electronic waste. Plastic at least could be re-used and recycled and is currently used to build houses in some innovative areas. Electronic junk is mostly deemed useless once it’s been discarded unless you own a museum.
A few years back, global warming was an issue (still is). Now, I see Artificial Intelligence as the global warming of the future. The difference is that we didn’t do much about global warming, we can still do a lot about Artificial Intelligence.
Doom and gloom.
The good news is that if you’re in the world of technology in any form, you, like Wonder Woman, is born with the ability to save the world. It’s inside you, not an external tool as she first thought the god-killer should be, but her pureness of heart and her choices.
Something or nothing?
At the start of the movie, she asks Steve, the human spy who literally falls out of the sky into her reality, why he wants to go back to the war, not understanding why anyone would choose that. He responds that it’s not really a want, but that his father once told him something he will always remember:
“When you see something wrong, you can either do something or nothing.”
He chose to do something. Not because it was the easy thing to choose, but it was the right thing to choose.
Everyone is presented with that choice every single day, multiple times a day. If you missed the opportunity, don’t feel guilty or give up, just wait five more minutes — another one will be presented to you where you can choose differently.
When you see a breakdown in the process, you can keep quiet and hide it, or you can put in the extra effort to fix it. The choice is yours.
When you see a dysfunction in a team, you can look the other way and try to avoid it, or you can speak up and resolve it. The choice is yours.
When you see a customer complaint, or as a manager or HR, an employee complaint, you can do something about it or you can convince them that it’s not an issue, as Ares does in the movie when Steve comes up with a suggestion on how to stop the war. The choice is yours.
Impossible only happens when you stop trying
Most people don’t make these choices because it’s never been done before. And because it’s never been done before, it’s impossible.
When told that no-one can cross no-man’s-land because it’s never been done before, Wonder Woman however listens to the facts, then says she’ll do it anyway. She feels the fear, and takes the first step anyway.
She believes in the impossible, of going somewhere where no-one before her has ever gone.
That’s how Mount Everest was conquered, and that’s how she finally saved the world. And that’s how organizations can change. Fear is all that is holding you back and fear is only a feeling. Feelings pass, fear too.
The whole point of software and technology is to innovate, to go places where we haven’t gone before. The question is “Where do you want to go?” Do you want to save the world by going where no-one has ever gone before? Or do you want to remain where you are, amidst the war, shooting until you run out of food and ammunition, like the humans in Wonder Woman does?
Magic or poison?
Technology is like magic if it’s used correctly. Think of cleaning robots, dishwashers, the time you save and convenience of being able to do banking online, the ability to speak to a person on the other side of the world at a click of a button.
Technology used badly is like poison. Think of how technology constricts you, forcing you to follow one user journey when it’s not what you need or want. Think of the recurring costs that is ever increasing, even though with scale it should become cheaper, not more expensive and the cost should be once off, not recurring. When you buy a product, you don’t pay for it monthly, yet with technology we do. Why? Think of the intrusion in your personal mailbox with spam from a supplier that got your email address somewhere, ads popping up when something is offered ‘free’ (but it’s not really free if you’re forced to watch the ad is it?), or ransomware and digital fraud.
At the end of Wonder Woman, she is presented with a choice. She can work with the war god Ares, choosing war, or she can choose love. Ares tries to convince her that human kind is inherently bad and doesn’t deserve Wonder Woman, representing love. She responds that it’s not about deserving, it’s about believing and that she believes in love and humanities ability to be good.
Each person does have bad and good, this is true. It is a topic I’ve been struggling with lately, trying to find meaning in evil in my attempt to accept the bad in the world rather than resist and reject it. What I finally discovered, thinking of my own life, was that if everything was perfect and in harmony, there would be no purpose to exist, no reason to wake up for, no joy in labor. You feel good because you know how it feels to feel bad. You enjoy luxury because you know how it feels to be poor. You create and improve because there are so many unbearable frustrations around you. If it all worked perfectly, what would you do with your time?
In Wonder Woman, her allies are a thief, a murderer and a liar. Initially she views them with cynicism, but when the thief steals a car and the liar comes up with a magnificent story to get them into the ball, she sees the value in them.
Evil as such is not bad. Technology is not bad. Negative emotions are not bad. Humans are not bad. We are both good and bad, but we also have free will to choose between the two. It’s our choices that results in what we do in any given situation.
Wonder Woman saves the world because she chooses to believe in love. She chooses to look for the good in humanity, not how they’ve created biological bombs and a war within end. And by her choosing love, she saves the world.
You have the same choice every day. Only you can save the world from bad code and broken software.
What are you going to choose?
I choose love. I choose life. I choose human connection. I choose good code. I choose to continue until I’m proud.