Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Parable of the young son

I decided to write this up as its own parable.

Once there was a man who worked at an insurance company as a programmer. He was an expert in statistics and computer science, and ran ever more complex actuarial studies on a massively parallel super-computer.

One day, his young son asked him what he did all day when he went to work. He thought and thought about a way to explain to him what it was he did, and he simply could not think of a way to explain what he was doing in a way that his son could comprehend. So he told him what he considered the most basic and actual truth about it:

"I make money."

Satisfied, the son went on to play. Months later, his mother happened to take him up to his father's office so they could go to lunch. Starry-eyed and excited, the son tagged along. When they arrived at the father's desk, he asked, "where do you make the money?! Confused, the father answered, "Well ... right here." The son answered, "but, where do you melt the metal? Where do you stamp the designs? Where do you keep all the money after you make it? I want to see!"

Laughing, the father pondered how to answer. How to explain that he got paid for his work, and his paycheck was electronically deposited into their bank account? He said, "Honey, it isn't like that." And they went off to lunch without another explanation.

Now the son is grown, and he still doesn't understand what his father was doing.

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