No such thing as Observer


—Andy Hunt

11/14/2004
Published in Andy's Blog

"We had this old idea, that there was a universe out there, and here is man, the observer, safely protected from the universe by a six-inch slab of plate glass. Now we learn from the quantum world that even to observe so miniscule an object as an electron we have to shatter that plate glass; we have to reach in there… So the old word observer has to be crossed off the books, and we must put in the new word participator. In this way we’ve come to realize that the universe is a participatory universe."—Physicist John Wheeler

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Even if a software observer does not directly make any change to the objects being observed, it will eventually make a change to the system somehow (if it never acts on any information, it’s pretty useless piece of code). It’s now a participator, not just an observer.

Software systems are dynamic, active beasts. Everything your code does will have some effect on the system. Hopefully that effect is well-understood and constrained to the area in which it is appropriate.

Hmm. By the same token, everything you do on your project team will have some effect on the whole system. Hopefully that effect is well-understood and constrained to the area in which it is appropriate.

After all, you—and every other team member, manager, and end-user—are a participator.


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