Perfection is the enemy of good enough

From The Jolly Contrarian
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Maxims and arrows

Nicolas de Largillière, François-Marie Arouet dit Voltaire adjusted.png
Parfait. The enemy, apparently.

A hearty collection of the JC’s pithiest adages.

Index: Click to expand:

Get in touch Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Requests? Insults? We’d love to hear from you. Sign up for our newsletter

il meglio è nemico del bene

— Voltaire

It’ll do. “Perfection is the enemy of good enough.”

And do we have before us one of those paradoxes of management? For at the same time we say, “be realistic about your aspiration to perfection”, we also say, “it is all about quality”. So what’s with the quality versus perfection trade-off?

Voltaire and reg tech

Easy enough for Voltaire to say, apparently impossible for anyone to understand when contemplating the potential for reg tech to assist the — ahh, delivery” of “legal services”. In a nutshell, if you think that AI will any time soon be replacing lawyers wholesale and putting the profession out of a job, you are going to be disappointed for a very long time. Don’t forget the JC’s maxim: reg tech can remain disappointing longer than you can remain animate.[1]

If, however, you look at AI as a tool to quickly knock out the easy stuff — fix the formatting, spot that the governing law is not English, word-search for <indemn*> — while recognising that you, kind sir, still have a role reading the agreement to pick out the hard stuff — then you may expect years of trouble-free motoring.

“Good enough” is enough to satisfy most people other than lawyers and the kind of child[2] who, when writing postcards to his grandparents, addresses it thus:

Grandma Contrarian,
24 Argumentative Road
Essex EX4 5FU
United Kingdom
The World,
The Solar System,
The Western Arm, Milky Way
The Local Group,
The Virgo Supercluster,
The Pisces–Cetus Supercluster Complex,
The Observable Universe,
The Whole Universe including the unseen bits including all forms of Dark Matter and/or Dark Energy,
The Multiverse[3]

If you like this you should try everything else Voltaire wrote while you’re at it. He’s a scream. Start with Candide.

See also


  1. With apologies to John Maynard Keynes and his aphorism: “the markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”
  2. And what do children like that grow up to be? YOU ARE LOOKING AT ONE.
  3. Ok I am making this up clearly the (preposterous) cosmological hypothetical on which this relies was not widely known in the 1970s and certainly wouldn't have been known to a seven year old,