Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Dustbury is criticizing the folks who are my age, plus just a handful of years. Since this is a valid point and it’s been proven out, I find it to be a little bit of a scary thing. I can already feel some of the aptitudes and strengths I had, years ago, slipping away and I don’t know if it’s because of age or atrophy.
I concede that there are plenty of people like this out there:
I’m constantly amazed by the fact that our older faculty/staff can clearly and easily be separated into two degrees of capability: mediocre and nonexistent.
The Mediocre folks are capable enough of doing basic word processing tasks and working with one or two specialty statistics programs they’ve been using for at least a decade. The Nonexistent folks are much worse; they routinely need help figuring out (I am not making this up) that they have accidentally pushed the Caps Lock key when typing.
As near as I can tell, the “Nonexistent”-skilled folks have one thing in common: all are over the age of 45, whether faculty or staff. Watching them attempt to work on their own, I can only conclude that for some portion of the population, the ability to form new mental models and learn new tasks (or even new ways of doing old tasks) has been lost after this age.
The real threat, in my experience, is the person with Nonexistent skills who nonetheless estimates himself to be Mediocre or better; we spend an inordinate number of hours undoing the clever little things he’s done.
I am, of course, way over the age of 45, but I’ve spent half my lifetime in the company of these daffy machines, so I have at least a vague idea of what I’m doing most of the time, and when I don’t, I’m not too proud to request assistance.
My hope is, that as I finish up on my fifth decade on the planet, I will have been irritated and agitated into figuring out what the hell’s going on with this-or-that thing on a daily basis, and therefore have some of this “Young Man’s Magic” — the “ability to form new mental models and learn new tasks” — that a normal fifty-year-old would’ve lost. I’ll either have that germinating in my cranium, or a brain tumor, maybe.
That would appear to be my retirement plan. This bit of sabotage that was done to the market to get The Annointed One installed as our next President, has damaged my 401k to such an extent that I’m afraid to open those little envelopes and find out what kind of damage has been done.
But I see, going all the way back to second grade, when people are obsessed with how I’m going about a task rather than whether I’ll get it done or not, they end up pissed at me and I end up pissed at myself. I’m just not good at figuring out what the other fellow would do in my shoes, and doing the same thing. And so I’ve spent my career trying to keep myself in a position where outcome matters. That would seem to be an easy thing — outcome is supposed to matter.
But no. It’s been hideously difficult, and of concern to everyone else rather than just to myself…in the last ten or twenty years…it has been becoming increasingly more difficult. I’ve seen the world settling into this mold where if you do things the same way the other guy would do ’em, and fail, you’ve succeeded, but if you succeed by doing something unorthodox nobody else is doing, you’ve failed.
I’m thinking these people Dustbury is describing, are the ones who’ve adapted more easily to this marching-band mode of work. Leave it to the other fellow to actually invent something — you just go through the motions. They end up in leadership positions, because we find them comforting. They do what we expect them to do; all coloring within the lines. Sure, they work in places where you’re supposed to be creative and coming up with new ways of doing things…and they don’t do it…but who cares.
I can think of two occasions on which I seriously thought of getting out of software development altogether. The first time was when one of the managing partners made up his mind he was my direct supervisor (it was never clearly defined for me whether or not this was the case). He’d task me to do something that might take two to four hours. It was new, innovative stuff, having to do with adding a feature to a product that nobody had tried to add before. But he got it into his head exactly what I’d be doing fifteen minutes into it, and come charging into the lab to check up on me. In other words — success wasn’t defined as getting it done. It was defined as doing it the way he’d be doing it if he were the guy doing it.
You have to think things through logically to get anything accomplished at all, so this was a big damper. The logical thinker can see, easily, that you can’t do new things that haven’t been done before, when your goal has been defined as doing things the way any other yokel would be doing ‘em.
The other time I was in class, back when object-oriented programming was becoming the next Big Hot Thing. The instructor put some kind of question before the class and demanded we jot down our answers and submit them. After he got them back, he announced there was one answer he got that he was going to skip over, because it was the only one like this. Again — you aren’t building anything new, and you aren’t going to build anything new, if you’re charged with the task of doing things the way everyone else is doing ‘em. Technology is the opposite of convention. So anyplace success is measured through some kind of orthodoxy, the job, really, is to copy things. Whether people want to admit that or not.
Also, non-innovative people really bristle with a special kind of resentment when they see someone else being innovative. It’s not a simple peevishness. There really is no kind of anger in the human condition quite like this. Your wife, catching you sleeping with another woman, is going to leave some bits of anger uncovered, that this kind of rage captures quite nicely.
I should add that that second bit of demoralization really did drive me out of software development for a few years. After all, what would have been the point, suck up a few dollars an hour to copy things? Do things most similarly to the way some other guy would’ve done them? I’m not even “mediocre” at that. So I went other places, where I had the latitude to see what needed doing, figure out for myself how to get ‘em done, and get ‘em done.
I don’t know how many millions of others made the same move. But I do know in the years that followed, true innovation went on an enormous downslide. We haven’t had ‘em. An iPod that does what last year’s model did, but is a little smaller and faster, is helpful — but it isn’t a paradigm shift. A new Windows operating system that does what last year’s edition did, but tattles on you if you try to pirate software, has a few extra moving parts and a spiffy interface you haven’t seen before — but it isn’t a paradigm shift. The mid-eighties to early-nineties were loaded with paradigm shifts. Last real paradigm shift I saw in this business, was “Hey we’d better allocate four digits to hold the year, or else on January 1, 2000, the world might come to an end.” Since then most of it has been upkeep. And therein lies a tragedy that has affected us all, both in the things we use, and in the way we perceive and think about the world around us.
All convention, no invention. Yeah, I blame your “Nonexistent folks in charge of the show” theory. They end up running things because they’re good at copying, and that’s what we want. A new tool isn’t going to get you excited if you can’t form a vision of the work it can do, and you can’t form a vision of the work it can do, if you aren’t somewhat disciplined yourself in understanding how things work. Consumers now don’t understand how things work, so they’re obsessed with pretty things that look like other pretty things.
Figuring out new things, or doing things the same way the other guy’s doing ’em. Gotta be one or the other; can’t be both.
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