If, as I have suggested, to the maxim “real artists ship” should be added “real apps scale,” scalability is not merely a function of more users, but necessarily of a codebase larger than a single or pair of geniuses can create. This is why many of the great geniuses of history, among them Plato and Aristotle, worked within the context of schools, distributing the knowledge that they had achieved over a larger extent of time and space via human intermediaries (i.e. students), and these schools, of course, had teachers beyond the genius-founder.
Business is, if frequently following a different set of impulses than potentially “love of wisdom” and educational institutions which follow in their potentially altruistic path, is nonetheless subject to a similar set of limitations. One simply cannot know everything and, even if, in a fractal-mode, one can understand the basic principles of a subject at a high level of abstraction, this “higher-knowing” does not necessarily give one the skills to solve all problems that arise at the microscopic level of the day to day.
Programmer-mathmagicians have frequently attempted to solve this problem by simply residing in the highest possible level of abstraction, not withstanding that anything written, at least as attested in many philosophical schools, cannot represent reality at the most abstract way. In this sense, we soon reach the limitations even of an incredibly abstract language (i.e. Lisp), insofar as the implementation must contain a machine and it is no longer a truely and “purely” a lisp machine as soon as it contains assembler.
The fractal is a symbol, in a certain fashion, of the juncture not only of the sometimes invisible mathematical patterns which hide between and beyond virtually all of nature, but of the fascinating interjection of beauty which appears once we dive beyond that which is easily put into words.
In a sense, to recognize this trend in the 21st century we must have some historical awareness, at least in the sense in which historical awareness allows us to understand the categories in which we think as a product of our education at a particular moment in history. This allows us to realize that the modern emphasis on the defined self distances us from the “genius” of the supreme flow state which was exalted as “divine madness” in the early Greek philosophical tradition and similarly exclaimed in Indian and Chinese philosophical traditions.
However, supposing we have let the defined “self” go, even for a moment, how do we descend into the world of diverse and variegated languages? The challenge of Plato’s academy and every educational institution since was just that — we simply have to descend beyond our contemplation of beauty and into the dirt of the every day.
In an ancient Chinese conception, this was known as the fusion of heaven and earth, and heaven here was not simply a place but an active force which, once opened up to, could serve to illuminate divide the great expanses.
The polyglot challenge and accompanying fractal imagery, is then, potentially an opportunity to recognize the grand patterns that exist on a higher level of abstraction and, by recognizing the grand patterns (and beauty that accompanies them) to dive into the details with the “right tool for the right job,” a task that is otherwise quite difficult to realize.
The sad problem is that frequently the world remains divided between those who, in a particular place of abstraction, refuse to deal with the nitty-gritty details of the “blub” things of ordinary life, and those who, because of immersion in “the way things are done,” fail to see any better way.
This is particularly sad at a moment in time, like the present, where “the way things are done” simply is shown to be insufficient. If, to use a military metaphor, there is an enemy at the gates and yet the soldiers refuse to fight because because the plans are not well-defined, the stocks of food or weapons are insufficient, or because their commanders are idiots, we might understand this. We can even picture them retiring into the countryside because the countryside is a safe and comfortable place to be. However, no problems are solved this way.
However, this suggests that even if a military metaphor might be appropriate, the appropriate response is rarely “forward,” in the charge sounded by the exuberant officer, but rather up, in the sense that a contemplation of things in context of a higher level of abstraction (or in accordance with the Way or Dao of the great philosopher of war Sunzi), will produce more beneficial results than those who respond to instigation by either charges or retreat.
As for the polyglot future I have claimed in other posts to be excited by, I think it is gradually reaching increased definition. It demands, among other things, people who are willing to know things well at a level of an abstraction and be capable of knowing the details while admitting they do not know everything. This is to suggest that the developer-architect will be an increasingly important role as multiple platforms are engaged in increasing levels of abstraction.
However, it also demands that these same people are capable of engaging at the most detailed level and, with regards to this, I can only be excited for a a most “fractastical” future.