I wish I could remember how we even got on the subject, but I’ve long-since forgotten and even sitting here for as long as I dare, scratching my head, fails to remind me. But somehow we were discussing problem solving, namely which solutions are the best, my suggestion being to always choose the most elegant, with Simon disagreeing. Below is how he chose to illustrate his point.
“Did you know that one of the first things we discovered when we sent men into space is that ball point pens won’t work in zero-gravity? Well they don’t. So NASA spent 12 billion* dollars to develop this pen that not only works in zero-gravity, it also works underwater and in temperatures hundreds of degrees below 0°C and hundreds of degrees above 0°C. It writes on a multitude of surfaces—paper, fabric, glass. You name it; this pen does it. An all but perfect pen, for only 12 billion. Fucking elegant.
The Russians, they had the exact same problem. Do you know what they did?
They used a pencil. Now who, would you say, won that particular thought race?
Elegant is nice, and even right, some of the time. But don’t forget to at least look at the bird in your hand before you go chasing after one the bush.”
I thought it a very good point, so I’ll forgive him his clichés. Now to make myself remember...
*It should be noted that Simon says billion just like Carl Sagan. So much so, that I was fighting to stay focused on what he was saying. :)