View Full Version : "perfection is the enemy of the good" Searching for Title and Author of a short story

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December 12th, 2005, 01:40 PM
Please help me and my poor research skills...

I'm searching for a short story; I believe it was published
in the 1950's or 1960's..

the plot involves two races involved in an interstellar war. Written
in the first person; the writer describes how his race was far ahead
in technology and is now on the brink of capitulation. Cause is
what we in software engineering would call "refactoring".. the
race of the author stops attending to the basics and goes off
redesigning all their weapons trying for "perfection".
In the meantime, their enemy "sticks to
their knitting" and carries the day.

I recall some kind of introduction to the story
describing that this short story was actually required
reading at MIT at one time. The phrase "perfection is the enemy of
the good" almost certainly appeared in such an introduction,
but unlikely (?) to be in the title of the story itself.

-- alm

December 12th, 2005, 01:50 PM
Hate to post with such a vague response, but this is resonating with something I read in the past year or so, and the only likely source is the complete short stories of A. C. Clark released in an omibus edition. Anyone else out there able to confirm this?

December 12th, 2005, 03:17 PM
I have definitely read that; I'm 95% sure its by Arthur C.Clarke and that I read it in a huge short story collection of his.

Colonel Worf
December 13th, 2005, 12:26 AM
I've got the "complete" collection in my car. Can't say I've read the story, though. I might bring it inside and try to find it though. :p

December 13th, 2005, 11:12 AM
that's definitely the Clarke story, not sure which collection it is in but I will look.

December 13th, 2005, 12:19 PM
Found!!!! The short story is "Superiority": Arthur C. Clarke. Expedition to Earth. Sphere. 1954

Thanks for all the help;


December 13th, 2005, 03:40 PM
I think I will go give this another read...it really is one of his best, a classic.