Skip to main content

Epochs in the big picture

If you haven't thought about the universe today - now would be a good time.  It may be the only time you really have.  However we tend to measure things, we humans tend to only think in terms of our personal scale.  We measure our lives in birthdays (an unassuming point where a crowded planet completes an almost circular orbit about a yellow star).  But what are the true delineating points in the history of the universe?

One would most certainly have to be the Big Bang!  I mean - come-on, the point at which nothingness turns into somethingness - that's the start of something.  But measuring from that point 13.7 billion years ago, what's the next important event?

  • 13.7 billion years ago:  Big Bang!
  • Just 380,000 years later the atoms of Hyrdogen & Helium start to form.
  • Just 200 million years later stars begin to form.

These are just the first 3 Thresholds of Increasing Complexity (David Christian, Big History Project).  They have happened at the very beginning of time.  Rather quickly on a time line linear scale.  Then for quite a long time 9 - 10 billion years nothing quite so miraculous happened on the complexity increasing threshold event time line.  Until the formation of planets (4.7 billion years ago).  Not long after planets we get Life on Earth (3.8 Billion years ago).  Things are starting to get more interesting.

Interesting things happen at the ends of time.
If we zoom up to the right end of the time line we start to see that complexity increases rather quickly at this end of the scale.  Much like it did at the other end of the time line.  It is the middle that is rather uneventful.

The last 3 thresholds have happened in just the last 100,000 years. Thresholds 6 collective learning, then 7 agriculture, then 8 the modern revolution have just happened.  To compare humans scale to the Epoch scale use the term Stone Age.   We tend to think the Stone Age was a long time ago (2.5 million years).  The Stone Age is the first of the minor epochs used in archaeology, which divides human history into three periods.  It is just a small fraction of time.

The Anthropocene has just started.  A good point in time for that era is when humans started using stored sun energy (oil) to change the environment.  The trend is ever increasing complexity.  While the 2nd law of thermodynamics tells us that the system (universe) should tend toward chaos (higher entropy). What is threshold 9? It should happen any moment now.  Could it be the Ray Kurzweil Singularity event?  The merging of human consciousness with silicon machines.
Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.

In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.

Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    To Do
    Work In P…

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?

Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

What belongs on the Task Board?

I wonder about these questions a lot - what types of task belong on the task board?  Does every task have to belong to a Story?  Are some tasks just too small?  Are some tasks too obvious?  Obviously some task are too larger, but when should it be decomposed?  How will we know a task is too large?

I answer these questions with a question.  What about a task board motivates us to get work done?  The answer is: T.A.S.K.S. to DONE!

Inherent in the acronym TASKS is the point of all tasks, to get to done.  That is the measure of if the task is the right size.  Does it motivate us to get the work done?  (see notes on Dan Pink's book: Drive - The surprising Truth about what motivates us) If we are forgetting to do some class of task then putting it on the board will help us remember.  If we think some small task is being done by someone else, then putting it on the board will validate that someone else is actually doing it.  If a task is obvious, then putting it on the board will take vi…

A T-Shaped 21st Century Knowledge Worker

Knowledge workers in the 21st Century must have many areas of deep knowledge, while also be capable of collaboration across multiple other domains with dissimilar T-shaped individuals.  This description of a person is a metaphor.  Compare it to the shape of the "I" in the classic saying there is no "I" in Team.

I first read about Scott Ambler's term "Generalizing Specialist" - but it's so hard to remember the proper order of the words... get it backwards and it has an inverted meaning... T-Shaped is easier to remember. 
A generalizing specialist is someone who:
Has one or more technical specialties (e.g. Java programming, Project Management, Database Administration, ...). Has at least a general knowledge of software development. Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.  General…

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.


Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…