Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

On the design of design

Following a blog post by John D. Cook, I started reading Fred Brooks‘ latest book. Brooks is famous, among other things, for his earlier book, the Mythical Man-Month. The book is really a collection of essays, organized like blog posts. It is really engaging.

I had never read about design per se, except in Paul Graham‘s essays. For me, the core message of the book is that writing software, planning houses, writing books or poems, are very similar tasks. The metaheuristics are the same. The lessons you must learn are similar. You are trying to solve very large NP-hard problems where you can’t reliably divide the problem space. Systematic greedy algorithms may work, but they may also mislead you. You need some formalism, some rigor, but you also need experience, or instinct.