summing up 55

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.

  • ease at work, i visualize my sense of unease or dis-ease as pendulum. and the pendulum swings from over here, we have the master of the universe, we have the programmer who's better than anybody else. then, the other side of the pendulum. and usually this happens after i made a particularly egregious mistake. on this side of the pendulum i am a waste of carbon, i am the worst programmer ever born. now are those stories true? no, but i am addicted telling myself both of those stories. i am wasting time, blowing off opportunities, throwing away the energy and gifts i've been given. so, what am i looking for? i am looking for a space in the middle, i'm still gonna swing. i'm still gonna think i'm better than i really am, i'm still gonna think i'm worse than i really am. but i would like to reduce the amplitude a bunch. if i can do that, i might not be at ease, but i'll be a lot closer than i am today. recommended
  • teaching creative computer science, we've ended up focusing too much on technology, on things, on devices, on those seductive boxes and not enough on ideas. i want our children not only to consume technology but to be imaginative creators of technological artefacts. i want them to be creative writers as well as appreciative readers. i want them to understand what they're doing as well how the stuff that they're using works as well as using it. arthur c. clarke once famously remarked that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. i think it's very damaging if our children come to believe that the computer systems they use are essentially magic. that is: not under their control
  • seeing spaces, i think people need to work in a space that moves them away from the kinds of non-scientific thinking that you do when you can't see what you're doing - moves them away from blindly following recipes, from superstitions and rules of thumb - and moves them towards deeply understanding what they're doing, inventing new things, discovering new things, contributing back to the global pool of human knowledge
  • the pivot, in an environment in which start-up resources are not limited, and no one can predict the next winner, and it is easy to measure customer behavior in great detail, the internet is no longer a technology. the internet is a psychology experiment. in this environment, quality is less important than speed. so the most prized technical people are the ones who can work quickly and produce one buggy prototype after another. and that brings me to the next observation. psychology has evolved to be a function of speed plus measurement. we're nearing the point at which the best psychologist in the world is any computer with access to big data, and any start-up that is rapidly testing one idea after another. that's a system that makes sense to me. in a complicated environment, systems work better than goals
  • interview with david graeber, in socialist regimes you couldn't really get fired from your job. as a result you didn't really have to work very hard. so on paper they had eight- or nine-hour days but really everyone was working maybe four or five. you get up. you buy the paper. you go to work. you read the paper. then maybe a little work, and a long lunch, including a visit to the public bath… if you think about it in that light, it makes the achievements of the socialist bloc seem pretty impressive: a country like russia managed to go from a backwater to a major world power with everyone working maybe on average four or five hours a day. but the problem is they couldn't take credit for it. they had to pretend it was a problem, "the problem of absenteeism," or whatever, because of course work was considered the ultimate moral virtue. they couldn't take credit for the great social benefit they actually provided. which is, incidentally, the reason that workers in socialist countries had no idea what they were getting into when they accepted the idea of introducing capitalist-style work discipline. "what, we have to ask permission to go to the bathroom?" it seemed just as totalitarian to them as accepting a soviet-style police state would have been to us. that ambivalence in the heart of the worker's movement remains. on the one hand, there's this ideological imperative to validate work as virtue in itself. which is constantly being reinforced by the larger society. on the other hand, there's the reality that most work is obviously stupid, degrading, unnecessary, and the feeling that it is best avoided whenever possible

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