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The theory of alternate meetings

Apr 10, 20064 mins

Hang on! I’ve been in this meeting before! I have! It’s the same group of people, we’re just weeks away from launch and these looneys want to change everything!

Why do they always want to improve things when we’re about to go live? They’re nuts! The marketing guys want these bizarre new features, while the developers want to change the underlying architecture, and somehow no one seems to see the obvious – that they’re turning something that might just work into something that probably won’t work. Sigh.

But how could this meeting be so similar to pretty much every meeting in every company I have ever worked for? Sure, the participants look a bit different each time – some older, some new faces, a different conference room, doughnuts instead of bagels, non-dairy creamer instead of real milk, excitement in the air instead of desperation – but the core of the meeting is almost the same as the last one.

But wait. Maybe that’s it. Each subsequent meeting is a little different (or weirder, depending on how you think about it) from the preceding one, and they get more different the further apart they are.

Now, I’ve read there’s a theory of parallel universes that goes like this: If we assume that totality – life, the universe and everything – is infinite (and given what we know, it would seem to be a good assumption), then there is a 100% certainty that every permutation of everything possible exists. One of the favorite “multiverse” ideas, the Open Multiverse model, is described as “a generic prediction of cosmic inflation [which] is an infinite ergodic universe, which, being infinite, must contain Hubble volumes realizing all initial conditions – including an identical copy of you about 10^{10^{29}} meters away.”

So here’s my thinking: What if, without knowing it we slip from one universe to another and therefore in and out of the same meetings shifted in time and space, which is why they all seem more or less the same?

And what if, as we slip from one to the other, we get farther away from where we started, and maybe the conditions of the meetings slowly get less probable compared with those in the universe we started from? That explains it! That’s why the meetings seem similar but also keep getting weirder!

That might also explain why, for example, Windows gets progressively more complex and why Java is such a mess. These are things that shouldn’t get more chaotic, but despite all logic do.

Hmmm. But how do we account for Linux, Perl, Python or Ruby? I guess those things came from alternate universes that I didn’t start from. If those universes are closer to this universe than mine is (or should that be “was”?), then they are newer and less cluttered.

That’s interesting, because if the developers on the other side of the table are really a long way from the universe where they started, it would explain why they seem so alien. I swear I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they’re all wearing latex face masks to hide their stalked eyes.

And all the marketing guys . . . I know! They are pod people from some weird, alternate universe a really huge distance away. Wow. No wonder things seem so strange around them.

So if I can get back to my own universe, everything should make a lot more sense! All I have to do is figure out which meeting to go to. Perhaps it is the meetings in young companies that take you away from the reality you started in, because the gods know they are the weirdest ones.

So to get back to where I started, I need get into meetings that are in older organizations. I know! I need to join a really old government department and get involved in the oldest committees I can find. Oh hell, if I do that, then where would the fun be?

OK, back to battle. Are you guys from another universe? If you change the UI at this late date we’re risking everything . . .

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Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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