The “move fast and break things” ideology is likely past its apex in Silicon Valley. However, following the diffusion of innovation theory, it is now spreading to other regions of Planet Earth. Like the UK government. (Take a look at what Stewart Brand says in Pace Layering to see why accelerating the mechanisms of governance may not be a good idea…)
Right now, I don’t want to discuss that–although, I will again state that “tinkering” with mission critical systems (healthcare, social services etc) is REALLY FUCKING STUPID AND WILL RESULT IN PAIN, SUFFERING AND DEATH. No, I want to issue a contraindication for adopters of the “move fast and break things” ideology. It looks something like this:
Move too fast and things will break you.
As a teenager in college, I played basketball. A lot. Twenty-plus hours a week. Two things we were taught relate to the above.
1) When it came to attacking a zone defence, our coach told us the true purpose of ball movement: make the zone defence shift. If we moved the ball too fast–zipped it from one side of the court to another and back–the zone couldn’t react. Therefore it wouldn’t shift. The shifts represented the perfect opportunities for attack, so we had to move the ball slow enough to create them. Counter-intuitive but oh-so true.
2) Immediately after receiving the ball, a player on offence is in the “triple threat” position. It’s called that because the ball handler can either dribble, pass or shoot. Further, the defender is at a disadvantage because he doesn’t know which the ball handler is going to do. Enter the fake. Like moving the ball around a zone defence, our coach taught us that a fake is pointless unless it is sold to the defender. If a player shot fakes or jab steps too fast, the defender can’t process the fake and won’t react. In reality, a slower fake has more probability of being sold than a fast fake.
In both cases, doing something too fast inhibits reaction. Speed disqualifies response, feedback and/or adaptation. Let’s enter another domain: fitness.
Dan John, a bonafide, OG strength coach (read his work) is fond of saying that, in fitness, everything works… for about six weeks. The problem, however, is that most of us don’t stick to the program. We move on too fast because we don’t see the desired results immediately.
The same pattern can be found in other areas too:
- Companies fail because they abandon iteration on a product which is about to penetrate the market.
- Hitler and co. called off the Blitz during WWII just as British resistance was about to break.
- Hitler also held back Rommel’s advance just as the jaws of the Blitzkrieg were about to close on the fleeing Allied forces.
- Individuals write online for six months and stop because they don’t understand the timeline of impact is measured in years not months.
- Strategists employing the OODA loop can cannibalise themselves by cycling too rapidly.
Another angle: the scientific method. Specifically, experiment design. I’m no scientist but even I understand that a successful experiment requires enough time for changes to become apparent in the studied variables. Change is, to some degree, dependent on the passage of time.
Last one. Promise. (Also, a warning: the following may be rife with basic errors.)
I’ve been doing some reading concerning the concept of time. I’ve read about string theory and quantum mechanics and gravitational fields and other things which make my brain flatline. Whilst thinking about the above, I began to wander what happens to particles that move too fast in spacetime.
My impression: if spacetime is a huge but exquisitively fine mesh, then particles moving too fast through it will get shredded. On the atomic scale, move too fast and spacetime will shred you.
/end precautionary sermon.