The Grey Heuristic

I have told you before, there’s no escaping the nature of the universe. It is that nature that has again brought you to me. Where some see coincidence, I see consequence. Where others see chance, I see cost.
– The Merovingian, The Matrix Revolutions

The Grey Heuristic – Any amount of change, removal or addition of components within a system induces an opportunity cost.

The Grey Heuristic is essentially repurposing the economic term of ‘Opportunity Cost’ for the needs of testing. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines Opportunity Cost as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen”. I am skeptical as to the accuracy of this definition.

Any pool of alternatives we can select from may not be limited to gains, but also losses. And the form of those “Gains” or “Losses” may not be linear, they could be exponentially better or worse in relation to other alternatives when applied in a specific context. What alternatives confer gains or losses will inevitably change over time. The fundamental goal of this heuristic is to help me maintain a tester mindset amongst people who have unwavering faith in the stable evolutions of their technology.

The Merovingian alludes to this in his speech. Testers work in an industry that seizes upon different sorts of chance to provide technological solutions, but that chance is always associated with some sort of cost. We must assess what that cost is and if its a price worth paying for.

I wouldn’t categorise this heuristic as one that finds bugs, what it does do is provide direction for thoughts when learning about a product. To me, this then represents a control-type heuristic; something that applies a particular scope to my thoughts to help concentrate my investigative efforts in a certain way.

There’s more to this heuristic than I can currently fathom at this stage, but I find it profound when applying this to the technologies we have come to rely upon. I’ll be doing more thinking around this and can see myself revisiting this post in the future.

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