Assorted thoughts about IT that I wish I knew when growing up

In the context of the Teaching Teachers Open Source, I had a friend with the dream to author a children’s book on IT. Below are the thoughts I contributed to her:

Currently I am reading Kevin Kelly’s What technology wants, and while it is true all technology and science is “building on the shoulders of giants” it becomes devastatingly clear to be the case with code. Increasingly, the features, the size of your lego blocks so to say, grow. Especially since the rise of Github, Pastebin and Stackoverflow (each of these merit their own essays you may read if you want to, but here’s a tweet), open collaboration is always too big to ignore. Incidentally, intense communication through various tools is also essential. Unless you’re one of the best coders in the world, writing any substantial amount of code yourself is usually the wrong solution.

Anyway, I’ve thought about technology development a lot, combined with the nature of work. Most colleagues study outside of work hours to be able to do the work. I have some productivity addiction, which gets weird when it’s any sort of knowledge you’re producing, not chairs or other physical items. If I could just replicate work I’ve done over and over, or even teach it, it would be so efficient. But I’m forced to learn new things to keep up with development, reaching higher and higher levels of abstraction. Because of this discrepancy - doing dishes will always take effort, teaching a team Git gets easier but learning new things always take mental effort - I’ve sketched a way of thinking about effort using different currencies such as time, monetary cost, experience required and mental effort (mana). So I’m a pretty high level IT wizard who can do a lot of things even at no cost, but it will cost time and mana. Also I get a specialization penalty for low mana tasks (find reference on how Richard Stallman describe hackers as the wizards of the future?).

One concept important to systems and software development is the ability to assemble (and to take apart again). Many systems are like dolls, ready assembled and you won’t open or change them. Open software however mostly comes partially assembled (legs, hands, whatever, parts always being reused for other models) but you will have the source code available and there are distributions that are made to be automatically assembled right on your laptop. Back around year 2000 getting a Linux system to work could take several days or weeks, but now I spawn new computers several times per day. It has led to the expression “treat your servers like cattle, not pets”, because if one misbehave you should be able to put it down and reproduce it from source code. This beautiful process of bootstrapping never seize to amaze me and tools like autoconf, automake, gcc and yum make it happen.

Finally, I feel like I have studied too much. The accreditation of a masters degree (imagine a lengthy list of impressive courses and grades) is a terribly inefficient way to weed out who is fit for the job, especially since there now are MOOC trainings for most thinkable subjects, not rarely for free. I believe that while excellent in parts, for many jobs, the significance of university education will diminish in favor of more efficient qualifiers. However, while I have all this knowledge and experience, I have a passion to make the best use of it and enable others. Any way you can think of to take part in that would be pretty awesome.

PS. Below are some notes which didn’t fit anywhere else:

  • ComputerCraft EDU v2 (Minecraft, version 2 has the simplified GUI) is very cute. Combining programming with Minecraft is a pretty promising environment to learn programming
  • When I searched for Curly Bracket I found a fun series from Swedish Radio P1

Great post, @unclecj. I like the idea of “different currencies” instead of a scalar effort! It’s true that your “currencies” are imperfect substitutes, sometimes throwing money (or time) at a problem just won’t do it.

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Thanks! On one hand, the amazing indian meal served during the workshop (thanks to Lars the forestry worker and foodtruck owner) reminded me different currencies, different ways of being wealthy, is a key enabler for a mindset of abundance.

On the other hand, “throwing money at the problem by buying custom gadgets” is a legitimate solution :smiley:

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I am purely using Linux since 2000 and while some things got easier, a basic install is similarly simple and getting specialized hardware to work is similarly tricky. My Wacom digitizer / touchscreen combo for example stopped working with the upgrade to Ubuntu 19.10 …

I’m sorry for the cynical remark already, but we also got all the horrible side effects of factory farming together with this approach. In my view, servers rather need love, just like pets :blush:

Minimalism is a strong trend for dealing with the physical world already (Marie Kondo etc.). In the software world, we still see the total opposite: needlessly going for more stuff and more complexity even though it’s already unmanageable (yesterday’s example). I hereby declare that software minimalism is a thing from now on! :smile:

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Non-LTS-versions? Living on the edge? :wink:

Yes, also core hardware gets trickier to use with free only software (wifi-cards, bios-stuff, graphics chips, etc.pp. for a podcast with some stories see/hear also:

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Just thought I would leave this here:


Jumping back to the main topic, let this be my retort :smiley:

(“Jeff Bezos” OR “Bill Gates” OR “Elon Musk” OR “Steve Jobs” OR “Fred Brooks” OR “Joel Spolsky” OR “Carol Dweck” OR “Martin Fowler” OR “Kent Beck” OR “Edwards Deming” OR “Linus Torvalds” OR “Robert C. Martin”) ( OR OR OR

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Hello @unclecj we recently started a converstion about childcare in remote working situations and that also connected to the question of how much technology use people think is ok for children.

an interesting point we found was that quite a few parents who are heavy tech users themselves do not want their children to use “modern” tech a lot. One reason raised was that it is just “too easy”

We will make a post just on this topic shortly, but what is your opinion?

Maybe check out this thread:

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@MariaEuler Gosh, such a fascinating can of worms!? :smiley: Sorry I’m here only infrequently, and don’t have time to elaborate much at the moment … but there are a number of aspects off the top of my head:

  • I much appreciated @erik_lonroth way of educating his children about advertisements and surveillance capitalism - the tragedy is that most entertainment and toys are branded, boring and shortlived
  • Not sure I understand what was meant with “too easy”, but meaningful things are frequently inaccessible behind a veneer of boredom. I joke that I would never have learnt Linux if I had anything better than to spend my highschool weekends at the Linux User Group. The ability to (dis)assemble mentioned above feels relevant here too - technology is most powerful when you can control it from scratch in some fashion. Also Richard Feynman “Everybody knows, but you’ve got to stop and think about it [my emphasis], to really get the pleasure about the complexity, the inconceivable nature of Nature”
  • I completely respect parents wishing to shield their children simply from the unfiltered complexity of the world. Even regardless of the fierce attention economy mentioned above, an abundance of information lead to a scarcity of attention, and the capacity to comfortably ignore some things is a skill of adulthood. Under this item fits all concerns that you want to protect your children from getting addicted to long-term harmful habits

Our next AMA is relavant to this topic:

On the 9th of December 18:30 to 19:30 psychologist Erik Bohjort joins for an AMA.

  • Would you wish you could change your own behaviour sometimes?
  • Are you wondering how much technology is actually ok for your children, and if and how they can learn with digital tools?
  • Are you developing an app, website, project to change and improve the world, and want to know how to best influence behaviour or how to nudge?
  • Do you have your own insights and/or issues (2020 has been hard on everyone…) you just really would like to discuss with a psychologist?

Then you are in luck!

Erik (@Bohjort) is a Psychologist at PBM working in the field of Behavioural Insights.
His background also includes experience as the Head of Research at Gimi AB (an educational FinTech application to teach financial literacy to children) and as a Psychologist at Akademiska Sjukhuset in the Neuropsychiatric Unit.

His research explores topics such as:

Behaviour change, Digital education, Behavioural insights, Nudging, Psychology

For one hour he will be available to answer all of your questions and engage in discussions, conversations and maybe even a bit of therapy with you.

Register here to get a reminder before the event and join the AMA chat.

The live chat will happen here, where Erik personally introduced himself: