I was pointed to this piece on being right doesn’t matter via twitter this morning. It makes this point
Software engineers seem to have an incessant need to prove that they are right. I’m not sure why that characteristic is so strong in our group. Maybe it’s to make up for the years of not speaking up for ourselves that many of us introvert nerds experienced for the first 12 to 15 years of our life. Maybe there’s another reason, I just don’t know. But the constant fighting to prove that we are right (and in turn, that someone else is wrong) leaves a lot of collateral damage.
My initial reaction was this this XKCD cartoon, which I need to print out and stick on my desk.
The whole piece is worth reading for a politically pragmatic take on the need to be right. I’ll come back to that question in another blogpost.
I think there are is a substantial values piece underling the why question asked above as to the need for scientists and engineers to prove they are right. It’s a question of integrity and identity. Feynman referred to scientific integrity
There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in “cargo cult science.” It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards.,
We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.
There is a general integrity in Science and Engineering that comes from having to deal with real stuff. Not that scientists are all entirely pure.
That principle carries through into Software Development, where political considerations too often override engineering ones. Organisation are political entities and I think that frequently causes problems for engineers.
In the end as Feynman said “nature won’t be fooled”. It’s why we have Dilbert after all.