I've got a few things in the pipeline, which is why it's been quiet around here. More on that later. In the meantime...
The part I found interesting was his analogy with cars, wherein he compares automatic and manual transmissions.
So the big problem is that in attempting to provide a simple abstraction, automatic transmission reduces the drivability of a car. I've found that the only way to get the best out of a car with automatic transmission is to learn what its behaviours are so you can anticipate the bad choices that it will make, and adapt your driving style to make it do the right thing. The irony is that this means you not only need to understand the underlying reality of the characteristics of the engine and gear ratios, you also need to understand how the abstraction placed on top of this works in order to be able to work around it.
Seen in this light, the manual transmission looks a whole lot simpler by comparison. It might have more levels, pedals and selectable options, but at least you know exactly what each control will do. There is no need to try and outsmart the abstraction simply to get it to do what you want.
The part that's interesting, of course, is that this is all completely subjective, and based on a rather large number of assumptions. Note, for example, “at least you know exactly what each control will do”. Living on Earth as I do, I've seen plenty of counterexamples to this on the roads every day. I'm sure we all know drivers who still can't operate a clutch properly, for all they've been driving one for years. And frankly, I think I'd rather the cell-phone-jabbering-morons of the world have that extra hand free. But for drivers like Ian, more precise control (probably) means more safety.
All of this is a way to say that the same interface can simultaneously be simpler and more complex, correct and incorrect, appropriate and inappropriate. It depends on the user. Which is why car companies give us a choice of manual or automatic, and why some software programs offer “expert” modes or other customizations.
It's not that I don't think Ian gets this - I'm sure he does - but after reading his piece I was left with the impression that manual transmission is superior, when in fact that just begs the definition of “superior”, which is inherently subjective.