Operator And The Art of System Maintenance

I attempted to read philosophy books, especially the works of Nietzsche,  many times and gave up soon in all the occasions as  I found it hard to follow the subject matter. But, Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was a huge exception. It read like a novel, sounded very rational and touched  me: the picture of the father-son duo’s trip from east to west on a motorcycle is something permanently installed in my mind. Especially the tragic end of the kid in San Francisco few years after their trip which is the main thread of the book.

But, what that has to do with a technology blog, in which I plan to write about few useful things that might make you a smooth operator? Well, there is something profoundly monotonous about an operator- be it a data center operator or any other operator who runs something, or even somebody who builds something mechanically without thinking much about what he is doing. Whole idea of this blog is to avoid getting into such a situation and make your work interesting and thus the importance of becoming a smooth operator; I couldn’t resist using the rather common phrase “smooth operator” in place of more relevant phrase “smart operator”.

The humble philosophical foundation of this blog is a small excerpt from Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

(The author provides a block diagram of components and assemblies of a motorcycle.)

The box “motorcycle” contains the boxes “components” and “functions”. The box “components” contains the boxes “power assembly” and “running assembly”, and so on. There are many kinds of structures produced by other operators such as “causes” which produce long chain structures of the form, “A causes B which causes C which causes D,” and so on. A functional description of the motorcycle uses this structure. The operators “exists”, “equals”, and “implies” produce still other structures. These structures are normally interrelated in patterns and paths so complex and enormous no one person can understand more than a small part of them in his lifetime. The overall name of this interrelated structures, the genus of which the hierarchy of containment and structure of causation are just species, is system. The motorcycle is a system. A real system.

The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.

My response is: Ruby on Rails or Perl/CGI used for building it, the elegance of a software system lies in your rational thinking. Rest of the thinking is left to whoever made it up until here 🙂

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