When I was young (or younger), I didn't mind investing hours (or days) reading tech manuals, scouting around the Internet (pre-Web) for software bug patches, experimenting to provoke crashes and figuring out how to avoid them, etc., etc. ... just as I didn't mind spending huge amounts of time working on income tax forms and studying Internal Revenue Service regulations to optimize deductions and gain a few (literally few) dollars. Nowadays, maybe I'm getting less patient with such things — or slightly better focused on "putting first things first", figuring out "what matters most", etc. (Those quoted phrases are from the names of time-management courses, related to the Stephen Covey book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — a provocative practical/philosophical class that I enjoyed taking a few years ago.) Perhaps there's a parallel to the way friends of mine used to allocate huge amounts of time to working on (really tinkering with) cars, or fishing, or shopping, or playing wargames, or watching TV, or what-not?

But there seems to be something new and different with the computer takeover of people's time. So much effort is being expended to do what we used to be able to do quite easily. The day I began composing these words I had just subjected myself to hours of trying to get a dumb printer to work after an operating system update. I know that I spend ridiculous amounts of energy messing with layout and reformatting web pages, tweaking vugraphs of talking points, fine-tuning documents, etc. I often catch myself putting much less time into the content. Mea culpa!

But has computer "stuff" in general become too complex? — with too many interacting parts, too many irrelevant options, and too little overall logic in what's hooked up to what? Perhaps that's part of why we're having so many difficulties getting things to work? (see EncapsulationAndTrust) On the brighter side, however, this suggests that the threat of runaway nanotechnology, malign computer hyperintelligence, etc. may be a bit more remote than many folks hypothesize (see GradualismArguments and SafetyInComplexity, etc.). And if people come to recognize the complexity barriers, perhaps then they can get focused on ruthless simplification wherever possible.

I bet that, for instance, with an effort of will I can some day wean myself away from futzing with the font menu (^_^) ....

TopicProgramming - 2001-11-05

(correlates: CraftsmanShip, LoveWindsAndFanService, Misogi Harai, ...)