On the Transience of Work

Categories: philosophy, Uncategorized

The post linked in this tweet is beautifully written and worth a read in itself, but I want to point out some of the replies: several people comment on the transience of software, and how the code they’ve written is no longer in production, defunct; it seems pointless.


The thing is that this is true of almost anything we do as humans: in the big scheme of things, nothing lasts forever. Getting older, you see this very clearly. The Australian visual artists I idolized at art school are unknown even in my own country, let alone beyond…

Songs we listened to 30 years ago are forgotten, their singers turned to teaching and preaching. The novelist that was lauded 150 years ago, huge crowds turning out to greet them at the train, is unknown today. You get my drift. But here’s the thing.

Life is here and now. That code you wrote enabled thousands of people to work, play, connect, read, write. Even little tweaks saved time, made days smoother, brighter, more effective. And just as cities lay new walls and roads over the old, new knowledge is built on old.

Try editing Wikipedia: it’s this in microcosm. Your edits soon disappear into the edits of others, but collectively the knowledge is built and shaped. And you’re also part of the community – sharing, supporting, learning.

The code itself may have long disappeared, but the body of work, the learning it took, its impact, the community around it, all of these continue on. Our work is always a process of dismantling the scaffolds behind us to build the bridge ahead. /fin