Software Twist – Adrian Tosca Blog

It Takes All the Running You Can Do, to Keep in the Same Place

Posted in Miscellaneous by Adrian Tosca on 2009, April 2

Leigh Van Valen proposed the Red Queen evolutionary hypothesis  that introduced the idea that there is a constant ‘arms race’ between co-evolving species. The term is taken from the  Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass where Red Queen tells Alice:

it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.

Van Valen found that improvement in one species will lead to improvement in the co-evolving species because when a species develops a special ability (for example foxes running faster) it’s co-evolving species will also  improve its ability (for example, rabbits running faster).

John Tenniel's classic illustration of Alice and the Red Queen running

OK, so what all that has to do with software development? It just occurred to me that there are a couple of parallels we can draw with that:

Competitive frameworks are improving side by side.

If a framework stops to evolve it is likely a target for extinction. It is a very visible phenomenon these days that if a framework improve a certain aspect it is borrowed by other frameworks. The same is true with programming languages.

Software developers are continously improving their skills

There are always new things to learn and if you stop, you will drift away. If one does not learn, the others will and he’s knowledge will sun be obsolete. You must lean every day just to stay in the same place!


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