September 12th, 2007

origin of sinful devotion

on six ways to do the same thing

Writing some C# code for the first time.

Collapse )So, here's the issue. At the outset, I make decisions without realizing I'm making a choice, perhaps because I only know about one choice or because I'm satisficing on what looks to be the easiest path.

As I grow, I'm aware of more choices, but when I make an active choice, I'm not really aware of the ramifications of each option. It's not practical, either, to become paralyzed by worry of the implications of choice, because we make trillions of choices every day. More satisficing happens.

Programming is something you would think to be highly constrained, and yet at each turn you're faced not only with the decision between what may appear to be logically equivalent options, but also by the law of unintended consequences when using complicated systems.

Far too often, you'll hear someone say "Microsoft sucks!" when referring to their computer, or "It's slow!", when they haven't considered the implications of that animated "SG-1" cursor. Think of all the possible flaws a flashing cursor might have, even constrained to the examples behind the cut. Now, consider that these might not be a problem, except for that "TARDIS" clock icon you also have running, too. Add in the mandatory corporate spyware checker and virus shield, and each computer becomes a rats nest of unintended consequences. It's not the fault of Microsoft, but in how each user, paired with each developer and vendor, makes a series of interlaced decisions, none of which is ever formally decided.

People react to complexity differently, Sometimes, they'll freeze up. Sometimes, they'll choose randomly, or satifice, or defer judgement to others. Sometimes, they won't even notice. Sometimes, they'll deliberately constrain their choices by choosing, say, Apple over Wintel. Sometimes, they'll accept whatever default choices are made for them "out of the box", "off the shelf", or expect that when they "configure", any possible implications of the combination of myriad moving parts are "supported".

Is more choice always ethical, or does it confer ethical responsibilities that are not always appropriate? When you sign an "I agree" checkbox, knowing full well that no-one knows the implications of that choice, have you made an ethical error? It's clear that if you constrain choice (see: Vista) people will scream bloody murder, but to what extent, and under what circumstances, is such squawking irrelevant?