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Progress is a Vector

By heath - Posted on 28 February 2006

For the non-mathematicians out there, a vector has magnitude and direction. A scalar has only a magnitude. This sounds like some sort of quote. I have never heard it, so I guess I will take credit for it. If you are trying to get somewhere, and you just run fast, you may actually be delaying your arrival. Why? Because you may not be going in the right direction.

Sometimes, at least at my job, progress is mistakenly interpreted as a scalar. This means that it as long as you are running fast, things are OK. The problem is that later you find out that all you have been doing by going fast is putting more distance between you and your destination. Now, don't think that we are complete fools at PDI, we do seek to set out in the right direction. In fact, we look at the map, compass, stars, and everything thing a good explorer uses to set our course. The only problem is that sometimes, we leave our instruments at the dock. We don't really check them until we run aground somewhere and borrow the instruments that are available.

This is why Extreme Programming's concept of steering is so important. You check your course against the correct course (the customer's needs) and adjust along the way. The more often you do this, more efficiently you get to your destination because all your work is heading in the right direction.

Sometimes it is better to go slowly and more precisely in the right direction. Otherwise you can spend more time recovering from your speed in the wrong direction.

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I second that thought. I think you're onto something there.

Mathematics can be a good description of physical reality, and it's concepts can be transferabble for mathematical "parables". If God's Plan is a vector in the direction of 0.0, 1.0, 0.0, the amount the angle our life's trajectory is different than God's determines inversely the amount of fullness we have of Him and His Vector(plan in our lives). If our plan is orthogonal to his we have gone no where and have none of his Fulll ness (ours being perpendicular to his, it's projection onto His results in nothing). And like you were saying. We can make backwards progress as well if our life's vector is heading oppositely.

interesting thought experiment... sad that I find it interesting... I think we need to get out more Heath.

Dan :)

Well put. Folks around here tend to get the vector right, but somehow get into polar coordinates. Burning their tires up and running out of gas, only to find we've gone in a circle and are back where we started. Are you having any progress applying more agile practices at PDI? I remember it being very process oriented where the process bred compliance rather than progress. That's some of our trouble here as well.

Hey brother:) Isn't it scarry that I married someone who can respond to your crazy thoughts? That scares me sometimes...

I am still trying. Bill Oliver is a good advocate as well. Earl, by boss, has actually come around in theory. However, there are old interpersonal dynamics to overcome with Greg.

Another big hurdle I see is our basically 2 teir architecture. We are basically a client-server system with business logic strung out like mozzerla cheese. I suppose from that point of view we do really have multiple teirs, they just do a little business logic and pass it on to the next layer. It is like the worst of both worlds. OK, maybe I am exaggerating, but it defitiely offends my OOD sensibilities and complicates implementing agile practices.

On a positive note, Greg has decided to meet with me, Bill, and Earl about this very topic. Our biggest problem is that when time gets tight, we revert back to our old ways. We currently acknowledge agile practices as good in theory. I guess that is a start.

That was interesting. How would you define His Vector. I would define it as his Word.

Mark(above commentor) and I used to joke about rewriting the Bible in equations. Mathematical parables is a better term.

BTW, Have you read Godel, Escher, Bach? I think you would really enjoy it.

Heh. Hey Mark... So you've found yourself apart of projects that are trapped in a polar orbit trying to find a direction. I've been in more of those meetings than Id like to remember. However, I find my own thoughts go round and round like that fairly often. The polar example is def. a relevant one.

How to define His Vector? I agree that the only way we understand His Vector is through his teaching of His spiritual "Mathematics" in the Bible. :-P It says there are a few other controls like our marred Image of Him and the the Holy Spirit another teacher sent as told about from the Bible. So I guess those would make up the set of resources we have for understanding His plan.

What I liked about your mathematical analogy is how you identified magnitude and direction as realities that are sometimes overlooked. They come as a package and together have consequences -- as does our spiritual direction. (note: I dont hold mathematics as being capable of spiritual revelation, the analogy was meant as interesting thought exercise in as far as provides a rough mental picture of how distance from God affects our lives)

I've read some of Godel's mathematical work (which has very interesting philosophical and spiritual consequences), not any of his other, does he have more? Ive studied Bach musically, but not any other way. and I havent read any Escher. I'll have to add those to the book list.

PS. check the comments on your Redemmer Church Post. You have some spam that you'll want to get rid of I'm sure.

The reason I asked that about His Vector is that sometimes people talk about God's will as if it is something that we can "miss" beyond obeying him. It is as if he has one plan and we can get off of it. I do think God has a plan, but that it is established in his foreknowledge. He does have a will that we can miss, and we do this every time we sin. And, it is not a mysterious thing thing that we must divine using all manner of superstition. It is usually as simple as reading scripture. Granted there are all kinds of resources we can and must use to correctly interpret and apply scritpure to our lives, but we need not resort to superstition.

The book I was referring to was Godel, Escher, Bach. It is very intersting. I think you'd enjoy it.

I understand about the analogy. I agree about the revelational power of mathematics.

Yikes. I guess my spam filter missed those somehow.

Heh, so that is one book not three authors. :) I followed the link. I think I've picked that up at a bookstore once. It does look interesting. I think I agree with your thoughts on Gods direction. Sometimes the most obvious guide is the last one picked. God teaches us specifically in the bible. We don't have to have pray the right kind of prayer "prayer of Jabeez", or "claim our rights in Him" or anything like that in order to receive a specific plan from Him. If thats what you were meaning.

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