Saturday, April 3, 2010

Impractical != Impossible

2316418326_a243fddbc2[1] Recently at Utah Code Camp, I got into a conversation about which solution should be used to solve a problem (given that there are multiple solutions… and there normally are).  Somebody (yeah, I didn’t get his name… my bad) mentioned that he had a boss that always looked for the “third best” solution.  This was based on the assumption that 1) the “first best” solution was “impossible” and 2) the “second best” solution was too expensive.  That was supposed to make the “third best” solution the “best” solution.

Well, somebody else commented that an “impossible” solution wasn’t really a solution and I agree!  What he really meant (after some additional explanation) was that it was impractical as he commented that it might be a viable solution in a few years.  Things that seemed impossible only a few years ago are common! 

Think about some examples:

  • Imagine telling someone a few years ago with dialup about streaming high definition video.  Impossible!
  • Imagine telling someone in the era of tube TVs about high definition flat panel displays.  Impossible!
  • Imagine telling someone in era of computers that filled rooms that you would one day have a gigahertz processor and gigabytes of storage in your pocket.  Impossible!

To me this emphasizes the fact that we should be careful how we use absolute terms such as “impossible” or “never” or even “always”.  Using these terms can limit your credibility as it takes only ONE counterexample for you to be proven wrong.  Use them with care!

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