Art is Art and Water is Water

March 15, 2019

Life, the Universe, and Giraffes

Filed under: Twitter Threads — foone @ 4:25 pm

Original Twitter thread September 4, 2018

So, programmers, you know those systems that have been maintained for TOO LONG? That are just too expensive (in terms of technical debt) to replace, that are just hacks on hacks on hacks at this point, are a never ending maintenance nightmare that can’t be killed?

That’s life.

Not in the sense of “your life”, but Life in general. Life™ was a moderately scoped novel idea for a single-celled life form that consumed chemicals spewing out of deep sea vents. Simple, easy, ship by Christmas, we’ll be done and can move on to other projects.

THAT WAS 4.5 BILLION YEARS AGO AND WHERE’S THAT PROJECT NOW? WELL, IT’S WRITING (AND READING) THIS TWITTER POST. HOW’S THAT FOR FUCKING FEATURE CREEP?

With evolution, there’s no second system. There’s only iterative development over billions of years. It’s frankly lucky that anything works at this point.

It’d be a fun idea for a comedy sketch. An anthropomorphized God comes to review how the “Life” project is doing, and Evolution has to present their work.

“So, how are those sulfur-eaters doing? I know you had some schedule slips, but I bet they’re really optimized now.”

“Well… let’s focus on the positives. They made it to the Moon!”

“The… Moon?”

“And they built global communication network! They can transmit messages around the world in milliseconds, and they use this for all sorts of things. Entertainment, commerce, diplomacy…”

“HOW DOES THIS HELP THEM CONSUME SULFUR?”

“Let’s not focus on the ‘Human’ branch so much. Check this branch out: The Blue Whale! Largest animal, EVER, even bigger than those award winners back before we had that crash back 65 million years ago. we’re talking 190 tons, 100 feet long.”

“Amazing. Well, at least you’re sticking with the sea-bound branch. I never really believed in that ‘land-based’ fork.”

“Uh, well, about that”

“What?”

“They’re descended from land animals…”

“You’re telling me that you took my design for single-celled life, built it up into multi-cellular life, built the whole ‘fish’ branch, then they developed that into land-based animals, developed mammals as a specialized sub-class of land-animals, then PUT THEM BACK IN THE SEA?”

“Yeah. They’re actually related to giraffes.”

“WHAT THE FUCK IS A GIRAFFE?”

“Steven, can you bring in the Giraffe?”

“Check out the long neck on this baby!”

“Why? Why would you do this?”

“Well, we thought it’d be useful for eating leaves higher up in the trees, but it turns out they don’t really do that. Instead they mainly use it for watching for predators and keeping track of other giraffes.”

“Wait, wait. I remember seeing an earlier document on this. How’d you handle the recurrent laryngeal nerve problem?”

“Pardon?”

“Yeah, yeah, in vertebrates the left nerve goes under the aortic arch. You clearly had to redesign that for an animal as long-necked as this ‘Giraffe'”

“Uhh… well, you see…”

“Don’t tell me that you didn’t…”

“We ran out of time, and couldn’t do a full redesign of that system. We just had to hack it into a working state, so we just…”

“You just what?”

“… made it longer?”

“You made it longer? But it only goes from the larynx to the vagus nerve! Those are both up there in the top of the neck!”

“Yeah, but for historical reasons we designed it to go around the aortic arch in the heart. It made sense back in the early tetrapod era, with fish”

“So how long is it now? In Giraffes?”

“Uh… it’s about 15 feet long”

“YOU TAKE A DETOUR OF NEARLY 5 METERS JUST SO YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO REDESIGN IT?”

“Yeah. Man, you should have seen some of those sauropod designs back in the day! We’re talking 92 feet, 30 meters!”

“No wonder we canceled that project.”

“Don’t worry. The ‘human’ branch is working on canceling the rest of the projects for us, so we’ll finally be free of this mess.”

“Good. I’ve been meaning to start working on the Europa site, it looks like it’ll be a lot more fun. No ‘land,’ just miles and miles of sea.”

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