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Fault Tolerance, a concept in Computer Science that can teach us about life.

The fact that this system helps us, the human species, to survive and thrive against all odds of nature has proved that fault-tolerance is a brilliant approach towards life.

An illustration of a fault-tolerant system

Have you ever come across something that you really want to do, but hesitate to start because of perfectionism? I have. And writing this piece was one of them. This writing kept popping up in my head but I was so reluctant to start as keeping ideas intact in my head was more desirable than putting them out in reality. The more I work to realize them, the more flaws I see in my seemingly flawless ideas, and it itches me. Then, I stumbled upon a book about technology which introduced me to the Fault Tolerance concept, a cure for my “perfectionist chronic disease.”

The secret sauce behinds successes of tech companies

Fault Tolerance is a feature that allows computer systems to operate reliably even when failures or malfunctions occur. It is the reason why we can still scroll Facebook feeds and load new posts even when we fail to connect to the internet.

By storing information about posts in our phones beforehand when the internet connection is available, the Facebook app becomes fault-tolerant to connection failures, saving us from the frustrations of looking at a blank screen when we expect an update of the feeds.

Best practices in the industry nowadays often recommend implementing fault-tolerant features in the systems. Companies like Facebook always have backup servers running in parallel and ready to jump in whenever the main servers die. The replacements are so seamless that users may not even notice the disruption. By promising undisrupted and rewarding experience, these fault-tolerant systems help increase the reputation of tech companies among their users.

As young students, we can have ambitious goals such as founding a new business, a new club, or developing new skills. And we want to start off our plans on the right foot, like having a perfect founding team or the best educational sources to begin. However, these goals can also require us to step into new territories, and the idea of coming up with perfect plans given such little experience can be overwhelming that we hesitate to start. Perhaps, we should enter these unknown territories with an approach that kick-starts us with more confidence and assurance. A solution that was proven in a world full of ambiguity: a fault-tolerant system.

Where should we start to avoid miscalculations?

The go-to solution in the world of uncertainty.

A fault-tolerant system persists when things go wrong. And designing such systems is applicable because life has so many variables that are out of our control and the best thing we can do is to prepare for them. Looking at a bigger picture, we can see that fault-tolerance is not only desirable in the tech industry but also in other aspects of life.

An example of systems being resilient towards failures is the immune system, a great invention of nature. It tolerates when we wound ourselves by cell regeneration, and it fights off the viruses whenever we catch a cold. So the aim of the immune system is not to keep us intact (impossible) but to keep our bodies functioning even if we are injured. The fact that this immune system helps us, the human species, to survive and thrive against all odds of nature has proved that fault-tolerance is a brilliant approach towards life.

Building up the system brick-by-brick

So, how does this fault-tolerance concept shed light on remedies for my perfectionist tendency in writing? It points out the fact that I do not need flawless ideas to start, I just need to have some ideas that are true to me and keep working on them in the face of adversity, such as criticism. When I wanted my ideas to be perfect, any criticism towards them would upset me, even constructive ones. But it is impossible to have your ideas agreed by everyone as there always exists opposing ideas. Just as the third law of Newton stated, there would be an opposite reaction that goes against every force in nature.

Perfection is not fault-tolerant, but fault-tolerance is perfectible

With an expectation for perfection at the beginning, I often find myself writing and deleting sentences repeatedly, making sure that I cover all the counterarguments. And it ends up with messy and lengthy prose, which diminishes the wish to represent my thoughts to the outer world. While with a fault-tolerance approach, I can jot down any ideas I have at the moment and follow the train of thoughts without worrying about errors such as spellings or grammars. This approach allows me to accept flaws, knowing that I can correct them later. I become more accepting towards different opinions as I know that I can always incorporate those perspectives in my next writing. Fault tolerance helps me carry on, thus giving me more chances to perfect my ideas.

Refining my ideas in reality: a beautiful process

Striving for perfection in work is a morale to be proud of. However, achieving perfection requires certain amounts of work and dedication. Therefore, having fault-tolerance mindsets with realistic expectations towards errors can be more beneficial in the long run than insisting on perfect starts. We can apply this idea not only in forming a new attitude toward writing but also in other areas, especially ones that are full of uncertainty. By persisting through difficulties, we have another chance to strengthen ourselves and perfect our work. With fault-tolerant mindsets, we live to fight another day.




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