A different view

“When I take on a new problem is that I’m not interested in how it’s been done before. I only want to know, of all the constraints people tend to assume, which ones are actually fundamental and which ones are just habit?”

“If I had any idea how hard it was going to be, I wouldn’t have done it, Ignorance is very powerful.”

“Ignorance and a willingness to leverage it

“When you take a new approach to an old problem, there’s no guarantee it’ll resonate in the marketplace. You never know, really, until you ship it,”

– Jeff Bonwick


Knowing History Helps?

One person in Slashdot utters these interesting words (emphasis mine):

You should feel dumb. This is your TRADE. You should know at least a little about it’s history. If you don’t recognize names like Ken Thompson and Charles Babbage, you are in a sorry state indeed.

Do you want to know how it helps? It helps you to appreciate where it came from, the work involved in creating these machines and the passion others have had for them. It would help you to understand where YOU fit in the grand scheme of things, and it’ll help you to have a little pride in your work. It’s all about respect. It’s about respecting the genius that made your trade possible, respecting the machine they have built and respecting yourself enough to do the best job you can. As a man who works with computers, you have to live up to the promise of your forebears. No one expects you to be another Babbage or Thompson, but you have a duty to yourself to understand the commitment they had and reflect at least some of it.

You may think of yourself as just someone who fixes computers, but you aren’t. You are a steward of the legacy of those that came before, all of us are. All of us have a duty to maintain the tradition and memory of these men. Without there contributions and endless hours of work and passion for the machine, we wouldn’t even have computers.

So, pick up a book. Read. The history of our trade is a glorious thing, full of great men and brilliant engineering. Only through it’s study can we hope to go as far as they did.

Another puts it like this:

The point is, there will always be a large element of society, at any age, which is both ignorant and uninterested in the history of anything. Most of these people will remain in the realm of Average Consumer, while the inquisitive will go forth, research the past, and build the future. The danger comes from the past-less few who simply abuse the tools that are available to them, or arguably worse, become the leaders who direct the doers of society, with little grip on why the wheels of progress turn a certain way, and no concern for how they’re powered to enable to future. Because when the percieved joy is in reaching the destination, rather than within the journey itself, it tends to be one hell of a bumpy ride that doesn’t exactly pave a smooth road for those who follow.

However, one gets disappointed:

Where does one draw the line between useful information and cool things to talk about at a party?

So, in addition to my two-point theory about why we should study history:

  • To understand why things are the way they are
  • To know the mistakes committed by people and not to commit them again.

I also got more points:

  • Respecting forefathers, respecting their artifacts and respecting yourself. (Where applicable 🙂 )

The 16 Habits of Mind

I recently came across an interesting article that talks about the sixteen habits of mind necessary to achieve success in life (the definition of success being subjective). They are below:

When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go we have begun our real journey.  The mind that is not baffled is not employed.  The impeded stream is the one that sings. – Wendell Berry

1. Persistence

Persistence is the twin sister of excellence. One is a matter of quality; the other, a matter of time. – Marabel Morgan

2. Emotional Competence

….goal directed self-imposed delay of gratification is perhaps the essence of emotional self-regulation: the ability to deny impulse in the service of a goal, whether it be building a business, solving an algebraic equation, or pursuing the Stanley cup. – Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence  (1995) p. 83

3. Listening with understanding and empathy

Listening is the beginning of understanding….. Wisdom is the reward for a lifetime of listening. Let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning get guidance – proverbs 1:5

4. Thinking Flexibly

If you never change your mind, why have one? – Edward deBono

5. Thinking about thinking

When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself – Plato

6. Striving for accuracy and precision

A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake. -Confucius

7. Questioning and posing problems

The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advances – Albert Einstein

8. Applying past knowledge to new situations

“I’ve never made a mistake.  I’ve only learned from experience.” – Thomas A. Edison

9. Thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

I do not so easily think in words…. after being hard at work having arrived at results that are perfectly clear…  I have to translate my thoughts in a language that does not run evenly with them – Francis Galton, Geneticist

10. Gathering data through all senses

Observe perpetually -Henry James

11. Creating, imagining and innovating

The future is not some place we are going to but one we are creating.  The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” – John Schaar, Political Scientist, University of Santa Clara. Author, Loyalty in America

12. Responding with wonderment and awe

The most beautiful experience in the world is the experience of the mysterious.” – Albert Einstein.

13. Taking responsible risks

There has been a calculated risk in every stage of American development–the pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, businessmen who were not afraid of failure,  dreamers who were not afraid of action. – Brooks Atkinson

14. Finding humor

Where do bees wait?  At the buzz stop – Andrew, Age six

15. Thinking interdependently

Take care of each other.  Share your energies with the group.  No one must feel alone, cut off, for that is when you do not make it. – Willie Unsoeld Renowned Mountain Climber

16. Learning continuously

Insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein