summing up 53

i am trying to build a jigsaw puzzle which has no lid and is missing half of the pieces. i am unable to show you what it will be, but i can show you some of the pieces and why they matter to me. if you are building a different puzzle, it is possible that these pieces won't mean much to you, maybe they won't fit or they won't fit yet. then again, these might just be the pieces you're looking for. this is summing up, please find previous editions here.

  • failure, by adam savage. every parent will tell you that you make a rule for your kid and they'll break it, you put a wall up and they'll push against it. there's a prevailing theory that this is how a child learns the shape of the world. and if you don't give them any boundaries they start freaking out. we all know children who don't get any boundaries and they start freaking out because the world feels unsafe to them. they need someone to tell them what the limit is and i think that failure in my life has worked in the exact same way. it doesn't teach me the limit of the world but it teaches me the shape of my intuition. there's one thing i've learned which is that a craftsman isn't somebody who doesn't make mistakes. it's not about the cessation of failure, it's about recognizing that it's occurring, recognizing that it's going to be an inherent part of the process and recognizing that you gotta dance with that. sometimes it's gonna catch up with you, sometimes you're gonna screw things up so badly and it's gonna be fine in the end. i don't trust people that haven't failed. highly recommended
  • a personal computer for children of all ages, by alan kay. with dewey, piaget and papert, we believe that children "learn by doing" and that much of the alienation in modern education comes from the great philosophical distance between the kinds of things children can "do" and much of 20-century adult behavior. unlike the african child whose play with bow and arrow involves him in future adult activity, the american child can either indulge in irrelevant imitation like the child in a nurse's uniform taking care of a doll or is forced to participate in activities which will not bear fruit for many years and will leave him alienated. if we want children to learn any particular area, then it is clearly up to us to provide them with something real and enjoyable to "do" on their way to perfection of both the art and the skill. highly recommended
  • everything is broken, it's hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the it equivalent of baling wire. but computers don't serve the needs of both privacy and coordination not because it's somehow mathematically impossible. there are plenty of schemes that could federate or safely encrypt our data, plenty of ways we could regain privacy and make our computers work better by default. it isn't happening now because we haven't demanded that it should, not because no one is clever enough to make that happen
  • how did software get so reliable without proof? by tony hoare. this review of programming methodology reveals how much the best of current practice owes to the ideas and understanding gained by research which was completed more than twenty years ago. the existence of such a large gap between theory and practice is deplored by many, but i think quite wrongly. the gap is actually an extremely good sign of the maturity and good health of our discipline, and the only deplorable results are those that arise from failure to recognise it (pdf)
  • "the fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt", bertrand russell

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