I had a strange moment walking to get groceries the other day. As I passed an old (‘70s?) Mustang with an obviously-excited technician under the hood, I glanced inside and was shocked by just how much empty space was there. I am by no means a car person, but could still identify most of the assemblies - in large part, I think, due to how big and spread out everything was.

This made me reflect on a few things.

  1. That’s woefully inefficient. Modern cars’ engines are packed in as closely as they can.
  2. At the same time, that waste also meant that some barely-technical passerby (me) could get a fairly good grasp on the engine’s workings with just a glance.
  3. This seems reflective of modern technology as a whole: efficiency and complexity tend to grow together, reducing the ability of any given person to understand a highly effient (read: complex) system.

What a world we live in, where every person has unparalleled power to create paired with an immense (and growing) inability to understand the workings of the technology around them. The “back boxiness” of systems - the number of parts abstracted away due to an inability to understand - is growing, but the power of any given black box, and the impact you can have through understanding it, grows with it.