WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BUILD A SET OF STEPS. One of Katja Grace’s initial observations is that: “Inventions are usually more ingenious than they seem”. She links to this blog post by John Salvatier, who supports the proposition that “Reality has a surprising amount of detail.” Salvatier illustrates his argument by an example from the substantial time he spent as an adolescent building things like flooring and sheds.
Salvatier uses the example of building a set of steps. He describes the task as simple at first: “just two long, wide parallel boards (2” x 12” x 16’), some boards for the stairs and an angle bracket on each side to hold up each stair”.
Salvatier says: “The first thing you’ll notice is that there are actually quite a few subtasks. Even at a high level, you have to cut both ends of the 2x12s at the correct angles; then screw in some u-brackets to the main floor to hold the stairs in place; then screw in the 2x12s into the u-brackets; then attach the angle brackets for the stairs; then screw in the stairs.” Salvatier describes in detail the actual problems that arise—the wood may be warped, the screws may need to be put in new holes, and so on. He concludes that: “Surprising detail is a near universal property of getting up close and personal with reality.”
The analogy to inventing a rope is that more is involved than the idea of a rope; there are many skills to be learned and used in making the rope.