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Evolution and Engineering

I have met many backpackers across Europe who just start their trip at a particular city (usually the city where they can get the cheapest flight ticket to), and then take things as they come. One day, they might befriend someone driving to a new city and they hitch a ride. And see where life takes them from there. In this way, they spend months traveling across Europe with no real plan or purpose and with no destination in mind, just knowing that they are going to experience a lot of different cultures along the way.

When NASA launches a mission to Mars, they need to know precisely what the orbit of Mars looks like, what our own orbit looks like, and do complex calculations to ensure that a rocket launched at a certain trajectory on a certain day will land at a precise pre-determined location on Mars nearly a year later.

The two approaches are not interchangeable.

The Mars mission is doomed if NASA engineers decide to just launch a rocket at a certain place and see where to go from there. And the backpacker across Europe will feel suffocated and have the life sucked out of her if she were to precisely plan what city she will be in on any given day and how she will get there.

Both approaches serve their own scenarios best. One is an evolutionary path and the other an engineered path.

What we need to decide is whether we are on a mission to Mars or on a backpacking trip across Europe.

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