Categories
Nerd Fun

Upcoming Important Holidays (Now that Nerds Rule)

Mark your calendars so that you can send an eCard to your favorite hacker, startup co-founder, or sys admin!

  • March 14 – Pi Day – Celebration of everyone’s fav irrational number!
  • March 25 – Tolkien Reading Day – Commemoration of the fall of Sauron (where did I put that ring?)
  • April 25 – DNA day – The day the paper on the structure of DNA was published in the journal Nature and later the day when the Human Genome Project was declared “mostly done.”
  • April 27 – Morse Code Day – The day Samuel Morse was born …. .- .– .– -.– / -… .. .-. – …. -.. .- -.– / … .- —
  • May 1 – No Pants Day – Thanks Knighthood of Buh!
  • May 4 – Star Wars Day – May the fourth be with you!
  • May 25 – Towel Day – According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy you should alway have your towel with you (it’s in my backpack)
  • May 26 – National Paper Airplane Day – The only way to fly!
Categories
Argument Nerd Fun

How Engineers Will Win

Before reading this, you should read Why Engineers Never Win and Why Engineers Should Win.

Ok, now we’re all caught up.

I’m optimistic. Yes, I know the world is hurting. I see how the people trying to do good often make things worse. I can’t claim to be insightful when I observe how we celebrate buffoonery and berate competency. (At least the Romans got bread with their circuses.)

I’m optimistic because engineers have become poets and code has become poetry.

Every age, every culture, every society is measured by the breath and depth of it’s poetry and the brilliance of it’s poets. This poetry can be visual or musical or sculptural or theatrical or even wordy. Sometimes it’s hard to identify the poetry, hidden behind fashion and fads but it’s there if you look long and hard and unblinking.

A month ago I had an opportunity to visit the Louvre for the first time, in person. I only had a couple of hours so I made beeline for the Ancient Greek sculptures. My mature interest in making art, oops, I mean visual poetry, was born from my experience of the Kourus and Kore gradually coming to life from stiff abstractions in the 7th century BCE to expressive examples of humanity in the 5th century BCE. Walking past these sculptures in the Louvre was like watching a culture awaken from myth to science.

And that same transformation is taking place today: The boxy utilitarian desktop computers of the last decade have become light and glassy iPhones and iPads; The awkward and inflexible HTML websites of yesterday have become elegant and animated HTML5 web apps; CDs and DVDs with hard data limits have become unlimited streams.

We are waking up. Engineers are not arguing for a better world, they are not waiting for the next election or for military action or for protesters to start marching; Engineers are writing new poems that express our better natures in code and chips.

Admittedly, things are a little messy right now. Tech isn’t always used for good. But a program or a device that gives an individual the research and communication power of a corporation or government is inherently good.

Already we have tech poetry that is starting to enable individuals to navigate and bypass complex legal and political boundaries. This is true equality: When you can talk to anyone, anywhere, without permission from anyone else. People are talking to people without adult supervision on Reddit, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Ventrillo, and more. And it’s not the end of the world–rather it’s the start of the world, a new kind of unfettered speech.

Poets know that language both enables communication and limits expression. That why they use novel formulations and metaphors: A great poet breaks free of the constraints imposed by his native tongue.

We can’t solve the problems hurting the world with the tools and languages that created these problems in the first place. But engineers will solve them with ideas that can only be etched in silicon and written in RAM.

Categories
Argument

Why Engineers Should Win

If you accept my argument that engineers generally don’t win arguments because they tend to rely on reason instead of rhetoric (even if you don’t accept my example that spam is preferable to junk mail) then you’ll be glad to know I have  a prescription for engineers that will help them win arguments.

But before I get to that prescription I’d like to point out two important premises. First, winning arguments is desirable; Second, winning arguments via rhetoric isn’t really winning.

I have some friends in the hacker/engineering community who are simply disgusted and ready to drop out of mainstream society. In many ways they already have. They have their own culture, their own activities, and their own vernacular.

Q: Why did the hacker surrender his spoon but not his fork?

A: Because spooning is privilege but forking is a right.

If you get this joke you’re an engineer (of the hacker persuasion). Don’t ask me to explain it to you 🙂

“Why bother with the muggles if they’re just going to abuse us with their outmoded ideas about sexuality, gender, religion, intellectual property, and what constitutes an worthwhile activity?”

But there are several good reasons for dealing with the main stream, and helping it become more efficient, effective, and generally more happy. The muggles are our parents, brothers, sisters, and children and we owe them something. They are suffering needlessly. If you can help someone but stay your hand that’s just as bad as doing direct harm. These are all excellent but tired arguments. The best reason for engineers to engage society-at-large and start winning arguments is that we don’t have our own private planet. A couple of more Chernobyls, a few more degrees of global warming, a few more years of developing world famine, and it’s game over for all of us.

“Kk” you say, “I grok it. Let’s all go learn rhetoric and NLP and beat the muggles at their own game!”

Unfortunately that happens all the time. I know lots of people who started out as engineers and ended up as salesmen, managers*, and investors. Once you change your thinking patterns to base arguments on rhetorical techniques (winning on style, winning at any cost, winning as an end in itself) you lose the the ability to figure out the reasonable thing to do. Like Stockholm Syndrome once you take up the sword of your enemy you become your enemy.

If we really want to win arguments, we can’t win on mainstream terms, because then we lose. We have to win arguments on our own terms. See if you can guess how before I write  my next post…

* Mea culpa.