Judgement and the pursuit of architecture

The whole problem of architecture, especially the problem in our time, has as its underpinning the fundamental question of architectural judgement. What is good and what is bad? What is better and what is worse?

Sounds like software architecture to me: Which language and platform is better? Which architecture is better?

For us as a society, these questions are paramount, since if we can attain a shared basis for deciding these questions, and it is reliable, well-founded, and indeed shared, so that everyone agrees on it, then gradually, our cities and our environment will get better, simply because the human judgement will gradually push them and nudge them, to get better. But of course, that has not been happening much in recent decades, because there is so much ambiguity about these questions. Anything goes. Everyone has a different opinion. Almost everyone has a different philosophy.

This exact same issue has metastasized in the software industry and given us a plethora of different ways to solve a problem in software, which are all full of opinion and personal philosophy, and almost void of any widely shared sense for what is ultimately good.

If we have a sound, and clear basis for making decisions about what is good and what is bad, what is better and what is worse, we can then move through the days of decision making successfully, and we shall have good results. But at present, we have no such tool. We have opinions, certainly. But no reliable source of judgement, that we can truly stand upon. And as a result, each architect, each designer, is a little lost, mentally flailing around trying to do a good job without being sure what that means — all because we have a foundation of quicksand for the judgements he/she/we are called upon to make every moment of the working day.

This is the most appropriate description of the issue in the software industry as well that I could find in his book yet. It almost passes as written about software development.

This reminds me of all the technical architecture talks that come full of opinion hidden in technicalities masquerading as objective arguments, while most speakers ignore to look at the whole — which at least also includes the expertise of the team using that architecture and they way they communicate and collaborate, and the values they have about building software and products for other people. It all is reduced to some technically objective benefits and presented as universally better, when in fact it is just a story told from a bubble within a bubble, without any kind of sense for why all the assumptions that surround the technicalities are supposed to be universally good or better than any alternative. “Works on my machine” is the quintessential problem in the computing world, because we have given up even trying to understand another person’s circumstances and only value what we, ourselves, can reliably reproduce — which naturally stays limited to technical aspects and ignores the human component.

#book/The Nature of Order/1 The Phenomenon of Life/9 Beyond Descartes: A new form of scientific observation#

Notes mentioning this note

Here are all the notes in this garden, along with their links, visualized as a graph.