Technology is a Tool, Not a Solution

The general sentiment that progress is a intrinsic to technology is evinced on a broader scale in the form of technology imperative lines of thought and more general issues that arise due to misaligned incentives, but also play out routinely on a smaller scale within the confines of software engineering.

In what is perhaps the most benign form this manifests as adopting outsized technologies to scratch particular itches at the cost of sometimes massive increases in complexity or footprint. This often takes the form of the inability to articulate (and likely understand) precise problems while suggesting that a particular technology will resolve issues. Some anecdotal stories for this case that spring to mind involve multiple companies around 2020 where developers eagerly promoted GraphQL as a solution to perceived API deficiencies which in one case led to wallpapering over the underlying issues leading to slower response times and higher operational expenditures and in another just led to talking someone down to the fact that what they were really after was caching (GraphQL can be great but it needs to rest atop a well defined model rather than attempting to compensate for a poorly defined one).

In more insidious cases this can amount to attempting to apply what are largely mechanical solutions to underlying cultural issues. There exist relatively sticky issues that require dedicated attention but often technological silver bullets are pursued instead. This is likely to lead to the technical equivalent of a cycle of reorganizations where changes are thrown at the wall in the hopes that something will stick.

This is not the ravings of a Luddite: technology can be a very valuable tool but the desired first-class values must be defined and tracked rather than being seduced into thinking there is inherent benefit in technology itself or that what value is realized will offset the costs of adoption (not tracking the latter is quick path to a lot of churn). Without such tracking technology is reduced to an incarnation of a solution looking for a problem.