Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Two Laws of War, IT, and Human Nature

There are two things that I have considered to be fundamental rules of life from as far back as I can remember. In my early twenties, it dawned on me that I actually thought of them with greater conviction than I ever did any of the laws of physics I learned. I decided that these rules held equivalent un-challengeable level of "truth" as laws of physics. Of course I did, in fact challenge every "truth" handed out in my first physics class. How in the world could everyone in the class just sit there and believe that there's some Force pressing up on the floor to keep us from falling through? Because the textbook said so? Hmm. I grew up in Virginia, and everyone knew that the State published the history books, and it was in Virginia's best interest to publish that every President except Lincoln was from Virginia! So, how can you believe there's an equal and opposite arrow somewhere that you can't see?

Now for my two laws, in the order of discovery.

Pamela's Law of Set Points. This may not be a very good name for it, and since I never named it before this moment, I reserve the right to change the name some time. The law is something like this: More things than you can imagine try to obey a set point. The set point may gradually shift over a long time, especially in response fundamental change due to extraordinary events, but in general nature gravitates to that set point. I remember thinking about this law and human nature when I was "into" change management and a person's or institution's capacity for change ("resilience"). While each person or organization has a different level of tolerance, that maximum is essentially constant. The same can be applied to a person's good humor. I believe there's a set point for each of us that is fulfilled by our reactions and attitudes no matter what is actually happening in the real world outside us. Worriers manage to find a certain level of worry, easily filling the void with a new subject of worry as another gets resolved. I'd love to be one of those eternally happy people that have a set point way on the happy side. I guess it's kind of the "glass half full" conundrum, which somehow leads to:

Pamela's Law of Constants. Again a name of the moment. I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and from the time I was six or so, through high school, I ritualistically read the front page of the Washington Post every single morning (then I read the comics if my siblings were done). The most obvious conclusion to me was that there was always a war somewhere, often in some tiny country I never heard of before. As one subsided (from the headlines) another popped up somewhere else, like the cartoons where the guy with the big hammer pounds down one bump and it pops up somewhere else. That's when I began formulating the theory that unrelated happenings like this really were fulfilling some constant amount of world-wide war. Over the years, I discovered that this same law applies in many, many areas. I could elaborate on the law of constants in the IT world, but that's for another day. You can see, though that if there are constants to be balanced by seemingly unrelated events, that means the events really are related… my crude contribution to the evolution of Chaos theory.

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