June 26, 2011

If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. - Dr. Carl Sagan 

There are levels of abstraction in everything, and everyone naturally gravitates to a specific level. Some people are content to eat the apple pie, some want to bake the pie, others want to design the oven that bakes the pie, and others focus on devising new ways to extract the natural gas that powers the oven that bakes the pie. 

A kind of gravity pulls each individual to a specific layer of detail. You stand comfortably at your layer and say, “Ah, this is where the work gets interesting!” 

From your vantage point, when you look down toward the core, toward where things get gritty and basic, the world appears like a set of fixed rules. A chef doesn’t spend time thinking about natural gas extraction, he treats the oven like a constant. The oven works, fire is hot, the world turns.

When you you look out, toward the edges, things appear superfluous, even childish. The petroleum engineer says, “I don’t have time to worry about perfecting the crust of an apple pie, I’m a petroleum engineer.”


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