Technology in my formative years

I was exceptionally lucky to be born into this moment. I got to see what happened, to live as a child of acceleration. The mysteries of software caught my eye when I was a boy, and I still see it with the same wonder, even though I’m now an adult. Proudshamed, yes, but I still love it, the mess of it, the code and toolkits, down to the pixels and the processors, and up to the buses and bridges. I love the whole made world. But I can’t deny that the miracle is over, and that there is an unbelievable amount of work left for us to do.

~ Paul Ford, from https://www.wired.com/story/why-we-love-tech-defense-difficult-industry/

This hit me right in the feels. I think I’ve had a larger share of the upsides and a smaller share of the downsides than Ford. But this feels like a good overview of my formative years in tech.

Somewhere I read, “the messiness cannot go into the computer.” That summarizes what I believe is the cause of my neurosis; I’ve spent so many years now taking real-world problems, and real-world interactions with people, and factoring them into computers—and I’m left with the messy parts of the problem stuck in my mind. I’m not sure one can even understand what I’m talking about until you’ve spent 30 years, daily, working on refactoring the fuzzy of the real world into the binary of the computer world. Maybe I can reword it this way:

Computers and brains are very different. I’ve spent decades using my brain to understand computers, work with computers, and program computers.

What if that has fundamentally changed my brain?

How can I possibly pretend that, “what if,” is not utter bullshit…

That has fundamentally changed my brain.

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What feels right is probably wrong

This leads me to the point I wish above all to emphasize, namely, that when a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of ‘end-gaining’ will prove to be the impeding factor in his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever. Ordinary teaching methods, in whatever sphere, cannot deal with this impeding factor, indeed, they tend actually to encourage ‘end-gaining.’ The instruction given to the golfer of our illustration to keep his eyes on the ball is typical of the kind of specific instruction given by teachers generally for the purpose of eradicating specific defects in their pupils, and, as we have seen in this case, this instruction was a stimulus to him to try harder than ever to gain his end, and so to misdirect his efforts worse than ever.

~ FM Alexander, The Use of the Self, pp66-67, 1932 (emphasis added)

I think there’s a lot more context necessary for that to make sense. One could go read the book; It’s small. But setting that aside for the moment.

Alexander raises the important point that what feels right may in fact be wrong. So the harder I try to do something correctly, by trying to do what feels right, the more likely I am to reinforce doing what is wrong. This starts to make more sense once I understood that the Brain is a Multi-layer Prediction Model. Once something is modeled incorrectly—when I move this way, it feels right—it’s going to be really difficult to change that model.

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