Too close to the machines

The programmer, who needs clarity, who must talk all day to a machine that demands declarations, hunkers down into a low-grade annoyance. It is here that the stereotype of the programmer, sitting in a dim room, growling from behind Coke cans, has its origins. The disorder of the desk, the floor; the yellow Post-it notes everywhere; the whiteboards covered with scrawl: all this is the outward manifestation of the messiness of human thought. The messiness cannot go into the program; it piles up around the programmer.

~ Ellen Ullman

“The messiness cannot go into the program.”

I’ve never thought of it quite that way before. Every once in a great while, you feel the ground move beneath your feet. That sentence moved the ground for me.

I spent an enormous amount of time being a thorn in people’s sides as I clamored to get them to resolve the messiness so I could then manipulate the machines. I tried explaining the machines. I tried explaining the messiness and what I thought might be ways to resolve it. None of that turned out well for the machines, the people or me. Along the way, I realized that dealing with that every day has fundamentally changed how I think. Up until that sentence at the top, I didn’t have a good way to explain my predicament. I only had this fuzzy idea that reality is one thing, computers work this other way, and here I am stuck in the middle.

The messiness cannot go into the computer.

Maaaaybe, I can use that to remind myself that some particular bits of messiness are ok to ignore?