Nothing is like software

It’s not the first time this has happened: I get into a conversation about the work that I do, concepts in designing and building software, methodologies that the industry live and die by, then it comes like a whistling blow dart flying through the air:

“<insert skill or discipline or knowledge> is just like software”

Examples: “Cooking is just like software”, “Art History is just like software”, “Driving is just like software”, “Organizing a party is just like software”.

Let me catch you right there before you think I’m some arrogant bit-pusher who claims the subject of his line of work is incomparably superior to any other discipline, quite the opposite: notice the phrase was,

“<thing> is just like software”


“Software is just like <thing>”

To put in more concrete form, it is the difference between

“A human is just like a mannequin”


“A mannequin is just like a human”

See, the point I am trying to make is that software is a lump of plasticine. It bears no form of its own, it bears no identity, or agenda or bias. Software is what people use when they try to teach silicon wafers how to add numbers up, or coordinate a taxi fleet, or try understand human behavior – the great codifier of all things. It is puzzling to me when someone claims to derive anything original from a craft whose ultimate goal is mimicry.

So please, if you are looking for something original, and the glint of software catches your eye, don’t stop there. Instead, look through software, and find the thing that inspired it.