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As much as I appreciate what you're saying, the answer to your question is

> the aircraft architect

because that's the guy who really built it. He could not have done it alone or without the help of everyone you mentioned, but let's not pretend like everyone was equally important here.

As a tangent, this is one of my favorite books detailing the creation of some of Skunkworks' projects, including the SR-71:

https://www.amazon.com/Skunk-Works-Personal-Memoir-Lockheed/...




> let's not pretend like everyone was equally important here.

Except that's completely wrong. An architect did not build the SR-71. Physical engineering involves a feedback cycle and iterative design refinements, just like software engineering.

I don't think it's common from some architect to just draw a blueprint, hand it off to some people to build it, and that's it, we're done here, my design came to life thanks to my Godly design skills (and the simple work of 40 lowly engineers). The SR-71 is a project that took years and years of work, lots of failed attempts, experiments and lessons learned. There's no way that the majority of the credit for the SR-71 goes to some bossman architect dude who just told people what to do. It was very much teamwork. Everyone, including the test pilots, participated in its design and refinement.


It was definitely team work. But the question comes down to being replaceable - could anyone replace Kelly Johnson and still create the SR-71? I don't know. I'm not even sure Ben Rich would have succeeded. But I'm confident not every single other person mentioned was irreplaceable. In fact I'd venture 99% of those people could be replaced.

Likewise, it takes thousands of engineers to operate Google right now. But do you really think most of those engineers are irreplaceable? Meanwhile good luck finding replacements for Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemewat.

This notion that everybody is equally talented/important is absurd. And the idea that you can always make up for a lack of talent with hard work is pretty obviously debunked if you take even a passing glance at competitive sports.

I'm not saying a single person can do everything without help. I'm saying a single person can have talent that you could never hope to have, no matter how hard you try, and that's just the way it is. And because of that talent, those people are more important when it comes to getting shit done.


I find it bizarre, but if you point to an athlete who is world class, many will acknowledge that yes, that person has unique skills and abilities.

Point to the mind, and suddenly everyone is equal.


> Point to the mind, and suddenly everyone is equal

Not equal. Sufficient.

Athletics are entertainment. Entertainers are usually not fungible. Contrast that with jobs demanding physical work.

Denying that some people are more replaceable than others for a given task done to a certain tolerance is a significant self kneecap. It blinds you to power structures and leverage dynamics. It also makes several simplifying paradigms inaccessible.


> It blinds you to power structures and leverage dynamics. It also makes several simplifying paradigms inaccessible.

Are you able to reference any material which explorer these concepts more in depth? These are incredibly resonating ideas.


Ronald Burt’s Structural Holes [1]. It’s a bit formal for my MBA friends. But gives you a basic model to string intuition on.

Slightly more fun, but still based on serious research: The Dictator’s Handbook [2].

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_holes

[2] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dictator%27s_Handbook


It may be the case that 99% of the people some way involved in the completion of the SR-71 were replaceable but that still leaves a significant number of people besides Kelly Johnson.


But on the other hand a superstar can also suck all the air out of the room, such that other potential talented people won't have the opportunities to refine their talents.


Everything is measured by if he can deliver. A superstar with leadership skills is arguably a better superstar.

You can also have asshole superstar who just needs other people for dumb labor. And who can micromanage them to project success.

That is pretty obviously only a local optimum.




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