An [WaPo] article last September pointed to cognitive science research showing that debunking myths can have the effect of reinforcing the very myths you’re trying to refute. That’s because the human brain is hardwired with a lot of shortcuts. One of those shortcuts: Over time, we tend to forget the “not” part of a claim while retaining the rest. So “Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction” becomes “Iraq had WMDs.”
Last week, I came across a few articles written over at Lispy.Wordpress.com. The first article was titled “Do you know any programmers that exibit these personality traits…?”
I’ve been observing an unusual programmer friend of mine for some time now. He has such a strange combination of potential and incompetence that its hard to tell if he is just lazy or if he has a “light” form of autism or some other disorder.
He goes on to list several dozen traits for his “friend”. A couple days later, he follows up that article with one called “How to Get the Most Out of Your Eccentric Programming/Genius.” Here he makes a few more observations:
They will pick up a rare set of skills on their own just for the fun of it– skills that aren’t or can’t be taught in schools. They aren’t attracted to the field of computing because of the money (though that doesn’t hurt) but are terrified of getting stuck in a job where there’s nothing left to learn. People in other careers speak of a “seven year itch” phenomenon, but these guys have a “two year itch.” These guys will change jobs not so much to get a raise… but to keep from getting bored.
The next day he followed up that post with one titled “Hey… You forgot to tell us how to get the most out of this guy!”
To get the most out of your nutty self-obsessed right-brained wanna-be mega-geek: let him solve problems his own way. Let him develop tools/abstractions that help him hide the sort of details and menial tasks that sap his strength. Force him to get up and go exercise or relax. Don’t hold a nebulous unfinishable to-do list over his head to guilt trip him– he will come down off of his creative high and beat himself up for being irresponsible and may even shut down emotionally.
Overall, the three articles are pretty lengthy with tons of comments. I don’t think that the general information presented here could apply to any particular person, since he is talking about a single person and at some parts he generalizes and assumes quite a bit. It’s still an interesting read for anyone.
“Egoless Programming” is an intriguing concept because it provides a way to understand yourself and fellow programmers. Knowing how someone thinks and why they think that way, can help you understand their decisions and personality. Also, realizing that you might fall into the same traps typical to programmers will help you avoid any possible mistakes and misunderstandings.
One of the Podcasts that I listen to is the Alan Watts Podcast. If you haven’t heard of Alan Watts, then you probably have never read much western philosophers of the last few decades. He has written tons of books on religion and philosophy. Just recently, some of his talks were converted to electronic media and are being released for free via Podcasts.
In a 1965 lecture at Southern Methodist University at Dallas, Texas, he stated that most westerners think of ourselves as a “as a skin encapsulated ego”. We (westerners) don’t regard ourselves as “identical with our whole physical organization”, instead we represent ourselves as something imprisoned within our physical bodies – such as a spirit/soul separate of a body.
When most westerners are asked where are you, they may point to their brain or some region within the skull. And somehow that part controls the body but is not itself part of the body. This is quite different from eastern philosophies might state state that their entire physical body is themselves and that there is no single part of themselves that is more them than another part of their body.
Western men have long been under the influence of two great myths: image of the world as an artifact and the image of the world as a result of random collisions…
Note: Myth does not mean false or not true. Myth is defined as “a traditional story accepted as history that serves to explain the world view of a people” (WordNet).
Mr. Watts goes on to describe some eastern philosophies as thinking of nature as something that grows and not made, such as seeds turning into plants. And the concept of identifying ourselves with our entire physical being.
All of his talks have been interesting, but short. Most of the podcasts are less than 20 minutes and some lectures, such as this one, are oftentimes split into multiple podcasts which are have been once a week postings.
Curt of Can’t See the Forest also writes about this recent lecture. He provides a little more insight into the ideas presented by Mr. Watts.