The Project Manager
|Dec 28, 2020|
"Isomorphisms are an unusual subject for recurrent nightmares," said my therapist. "Do you mean the word in the mathematical sense?"
"Yes," I said, "but I don't have nightmares about exams, if that's what you mean."
"What we are trying to figure out is what you mean. I think you already have an idea."
I shrugged. "The basic concept of project management theory is that what you're trying to do, the tools, the resources, the dependencies, only matter in their mathematical structure. Building an office tower and a cargo ship are mathematically the same problem, only the numbers and the labels change. That's what isomorphic means. That's why artificial intelligences are so good at them - they don't care about anything besides the mathematics, and they don't need to care."
"Despite that, you still get hired to guide those artificial intelligences. Are you afraid that one day you won't?"
"No, it's not that."
"Then what scares you?"
I stared at the ceiling before answering. "There's a standard technical language in project management, a mathematical notation. One that both computers and experts read. Everything I do, everything I see, is in that language. I don't need anything else to do my job - it gives all the information I need to manage a project, regardless of what it's doing. It just doesn't say what the project is."
It was my therapist's turn to nod. "And because you don't need to know what you're managing to do your job, you don't. Except that you do need to know."
I closed my eyes. "I'm currently managing half a dozen projects. I know it's for wealthy people, or companies, or countries, because of their complexity and how well I'm paid, but I don't know what they are. I don't know if I'm helping along an ecological refactoring, stealing an election, or corporate sabotage. The mathematics would be the same. The project management is the same."
"But your dreams would be different if you knew. What's in your dreams now?"
"The dreams are always different, but they have the same structure. They are isomorphic, I guess." I grimaced. "I always find people executing plans, which I remember are things I managed, but they are just fragments of a larger plan, one they don't know exists but everybody is working on at the same time."
"Do you know what that plan is doing?"
I shook my head, lying. "No, I don't. I just feel I recognize the shape of it."
I hadn't yet told him about the gun in my bedside drawer, the envelope with the carefully written note inside it, and the simple plan I had also seen, infinitely larger and mathematically identical, played out in my dreams and on my computer screen.