Egyptian mythology and object-oriented design

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18 December 2004

I was relaxing today, visiting with my wife and she read me the text from

this link. It got me thinking… (and yes, I am way too geeky for my own good sometimes ;-) )

<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” /> 

The ancient Egyptians had a pretty solid understanding of decomposition into object-oriented models al la

CRC-style analysis.

  (Stargate SG-1’s

general misuse of the goddess Maat notwithstanding, and totally ignoring the real world speculation that Maat was an alien)

  Look at the description of the goddess Maat’s role. She has a very clearly delineated and focused responsibility. As an object, Maat’s job is to measure justice vs evil. Arguably this is the job of the scale, but given that there’s a goddess involved, I’m giving more weight (pun intended) to her than to the inanimate scale.   She doesn’t decide what to do about evil, or how to mete out justice. This is not her role.   Osiris on the other hand, doesn’t measure justice or evil, nor does he perform punishment. His responsibility is also clearly delineated as a single “business rule” wherein he passes the Judged off to the appropriate “handler“.   To do this he collaborates with Maat (and technically with the scale) and with the Judged. He has a using relationship with Ahemait, where he passes the Judged if they fail to meet the business requirement by having an excess quantity of evil (as measured by Maat).   The fact that the Egyptians realized that justice had two parts, or two responsibilities, is very interesting. They properly separated the responsibility of measuring evil (as a single, discrete concept) from the responsibility of judging outcomes based on that measurement. A distinction that was fortunately carried forward into the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />US justice system. The measurement of evil is the responsibility of the jury, while the judging is a separate concern as is the actual implementation of punishment. Next time you are called for jury duty, keep in mind that you are filling the role of the goddess. Not only did the Egyptians get the separation of responsibilities, but they understood the idea of object collaboration. This is illustrated by the fact that Osiris can’t do his job without collaborating with other “objects” in the system.   And to think. All this time I’ve been saying that object-orientation has been around for about 30 years. I guess I was off by a couple orders of magnitude. It is more like 3000 years :-)