A short slack excerpt on anger + tech

Evin: Why is programming such a source of anger and vitriol? Somebody hacks on stuff all day. They love to code, just like you do. They’re passionate and really into things, just like you are. Why would we be angry at them?

I actually want answers to this

I want to be able to counter it at every turn

Michael: Not saying it’s right, but pride. They love what they do and are prideful and elitist about their abilities and their opinions. Honestly it’s an issue with the culture of programming enabled by things like calling devs “rockstars” and influential people like Linus.

Linus is a rant I can go on about. People love Linus for his brutal responses. I’ve enjoyed it, and I think most devs have. He is perhaps one of the most important devs of our time and his entire persona is built around tearing people down with brutal words.

Evin: Yeah, it’s really not good. there’s a difference between “being so talented you can get away with it” and “actually doing it” and I don’t respect Linus for having that persona. I feel like there’s a heck of a lot he could do to counter that, but he doesn’t see a need in doing so

maybe we just need better role models, in general: People who are willing to address ideas, but not in an insulting fashion. Scott Aaronson is somebody who I know has basically had to block people from commenting because of their often extremely poor and unintelligent ideas, but he doesn’t strike me as somebody who’s filled with anger and pride in the same way

let’s see if I can find it

welp i’m not about to find it

anywys, I think what ends up happening a lot of the time is that things that don’t seem obvious are portrayed as obvious

that’s not the best way to put it, but what I’m trying to capture is the sense of somebody who’s like “yo this is a cool way to do things” and then another person says “no it’s not lol can you even think” when that’s not the appropriate response

and often the proof boils down to “i have more experience than you and my gut tells me you’re wrong”

bleeehhh i’m not expressing myself well here

The point is, when even ideas as simple as DRY can be complicated as to not be true 100% of the time, the line between what’s dead obvious and what’s straight up crazy gets blurred to hell and back.

are programs in typed languages less buggy than untyped? I’m guessing probably, but I don’t really know. Are programs in typed languages the better engineering choice? I have precisely no idea in most cases.

if you claim to know that, I argue you’re projecting what’s a really complicated and nearly impossible-to-abstract problem as being easy and decisive, which it most certainly isn’t

But you get social benefit out of claiming that it IS decisive, especially if you’ve got experience. You can convince others to use your style, have influence

Michael: I agree with all your sentiments and understand what you are saying. It really boils down to in a perfect world, experience wouldn’t be touted as a justification for an inappropriately mean comment. But I think it really is a human problem. What we do requires skill and it’s human nature (to a certain degree) to build yourself up and tear others down. Look at how popular tv shows are with an insanely intelligent protagonist with an unbearably bad personality. It’s almost as if people equate how smart you are with how mean you are to those who are less knowledgeable.

I mean this is why I stress this stuff so heavily in my code review boot camp for new hires. It’s so prevalent in our coding community that I have slides dedicated to saying code review is a two way street, you can learn from everyone, and remember there’s a human behind the code.

Evin: yay you’re making the difference here!

one of the really loose notions (bread and butter in this channel) that I have is that we put such a major emphasis on being exceptional intelligence-wise that’s really disastrous. we glorify it to hell and back. “We hire smart people” is a way of saying “we discriminate based on some property other than how well somebody will do”. How could you not in that environment try to tout your own intelligence to the detriment of others?

(this is not my area of expertise here, I just… uhh… have thoughts)

furthermore, being perceived as smart is an incredibly easy way to start being wrong more often.

you trust your instincts more. you don’t think critically. you don’t feel the need to prove your own claims

so i guess the combo here is

1: we glorify intelligence as a form of social worth, namely one that can’t effectively change over time

2: we correlate intelligence with being an asshole

this obsession with exceptionalism I think is also what drives the bias towards youth in tech

why should young, spunky dudes be the face of fancy tech?
i mean, didn’t that end up being a thing in James Bond?

originally you had Q as this old dude who knew tech inside and out and now you’ve got a young tech bro

i dunno, I don’t like that at all.

like, i think about a story my dad told me at some point, about wherein there was a changing of the school schedule between his preschool and first grade, such that the parents could choose whether or not to accelerate their kids ahead 6 months, such that they enter the 1st grade at a younger age than normal, or keep them in preschool for longer so that they enter the 1st grade at an older age than normal.
apparently almost all the parents pushed their kids ahead, who wouldn’t?

but this turned out to be a bad choice — they didn’t do as well in school, started falling behind in general a little, and didn’t progress nearly as well as they could have had they been the normal age.

Like, of course it makes sense that this wouldn’t work well. The average kid isn’t going to do well against a curriculum that’s too hard for their age — they’re going to struggle throughout. Struggling in one year leads to struggling in the next, etc… It’s only the exceptional ones that will manage to keep up with an advanced curriculum.

But the parents weren’t optimizing for the average case

they were optimizing for the exceptional case

now, for the children that did the opposite, for the rest of their entire scholastic career, they’ve got an incredible leg up above everybody else. Concepts come easier. They’re able to understand more. They’re pretty much guaranteed to, on average, do far better than the kids who were accelerated.

Does that 6 months matter to an employer, or to a college? Fuck no! What matters is their unusually good academic career so far.

Point is, I think tech’s obsession with youth optimizes for the exceptional case, not the average case, in exactly the same fashion.

And bringing it way back, that focus on exceptionalism is also what drives people to be assholes when they don’t need to be.

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