This quote from the original article summarizes well I was skeptical about this project from the beginning:
"In Germany I think there was also resistance to the idea of a top-down project driven by governments," said Andreas Zeller, chairman of software engineering at the University of Saarland in Saarbrücken, Germany, which supplied advisors to Quaero. "Success in the end is something that can't be planned but is something that begets itself."
The top-down project model does not work for building widely used goods and services because it is not responsive enough to early user feedback. The effectiveness of a search engine cannot be predicted, but it can be measured in the field. Bureaucratic top-down projects do not seem to be able to build something simple early, measure its effectiveness, and use the metrics to quickly evaluate proposed improvements. In other words, the design and development processes are not adaptive enough.
I like the analogy of learning how to ski late. One of the hardest things is to learn to trust fast low-level feedbacks and small adaptations, and push conscious control out of the way, because it is way too slow to do the right thing on time. Low-level adaptation comes from trying small adjustments and getting immediate feedback (oops, I'm out of balance!). Good teachers use exercises to decompose motions so that the student becomes aware of small perceptual and motor effects and can put into place robust adaptation processes.
In other words: effective complex artifacts or processes are unlikely to be designed as whole, they are much more likely to evolve through a process that quickly evaluates combinations of robust, field-tested pieces. Like biological evolution.
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