Walking backwards

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The many forms of protection like limiters, fuses, clamps, compressors, and crowbars all have something in common. They don’t make things better. They make sure things don’t get worse.

Very different than a technology that moves the progress bar forward.

Which is why it can be confusing when we read about the amazing improvements wrought by protection devices like a multi-hundred dollar beeswax and honeyed fuse. Confusing because we’re tempted to believe the object is moving the progress bar forward when in reality, it’s just doing less damage.

Semantics?

Perhaps. This line of reasoning is a slippery slope. The difference between sonic improvements achieved through removing obstacles is dangerously close to what we think of as pure forward motion. String together enough removed obstacles and at the end of the chain something new emerges.

The difference I suspect has to do with time. The larger the gap between discovery, solution, innovation, and progress the more it feels like forward motion than tweaks to the system.

Big leaps in progress seem obvious: tubes vs. transistors, gyrators vs. RCLs, mono vs. stereo, etc. These seem less like examples of removing barriers than pushing forward the envelope of technology.

So where does one draw the line between forward progress and removing layers of cruft?

Hard to say.

It is clear to me protective devices like fuses don’t move us forward any more than the pandemic’s emblematic icon, facial masks do. They protect but don’t improve.

Yet, it’s equally clear to me that we move forward faster when we don’t walk backwards.