Thursday December 29 2022

Selling out your future to ease the moment

This concept applies to so many aspects of our lives. Debt is the classic example. I won’t be covering that one here.

The technical aspect is a lot more subtle – we all deal with these kinds of problems, and we only have so much time in the day – so we tell ourselves that we’re going to simply do what is expedient rather than what is correct. Perhaps even, not to figure out what was wrong in the first place.

Over the past couple of months helping several people take on learning how to write code, running Linux, or networks the same pattern has come up.

Let’s take a common example for people starting out with Linux. Dual booting – something fraught with issues – or at least that’s what everyone says.

A common problem is, Windows, or Linux, for that matter to stop booting one operating system, or the other. Why? Well, the causes can be varied. For the purposes of exploring the idea at hand, let’s say we don’t care and just re-install the OS.

What have we said to ourselves in that process? I don’t know about you, but re-installing an operating system is not the first thought I have, even if it comes up it certainly isn’t a fun idea for me. I think the same holds true for most. You’d much rather just fix the issue at hand, if possible.

If you knew for sure it’d take twenty minutes to fix the issue, I think most people would try to fix it. The problem is, as we all know, it’s not likely to take twenty minutes. It may even take you twenty hours the first time. If you know that up front, well, many won’t make that time investment.

Say that it does indeed take you twenty hours to troubleshoot that boot issue. For many people that may be two, three, or even four times more time than it’d take to re-install the OS. The choice seems clear at that point – just re-install the OS.

The re-install is also a hammer of sorts, it’s really simple, you know it’s going to work – and, you’ve probably done it before.

Now, what’s not clear, is that the future, specifically your future is not taken into account.

The odds are that if you encountered an issue where your system couldn’t boot due to configuration you’re likely to encounter that again if you just re-install.

What happens in that future where you’re already invested in your re-install paradigm and your system won’t boot again?

For most, this would take the wind out of their sails so-to-speak.

I see this too, with people learning a tool like git, so many would rather just delete the repository and clone it back down and re-do their work rather than learn how to solve a merge conflict.

Again, it might be faster in the moment – it might only take you 20 minutes to copy over your changes or re-write your code by hand.

It might take you an hour or two to figure out what a git mergetool is, install meld ( that is, if you’re not using vimdiff or something ) and figure out how to use it.

Still, one sabotages your future, keeping your handicap, while the other invests in your future working to absolve you of that limitation.

Why do people take this approach to keep their handicaps?

Humans in general seem to invest in what has worked in the past – regardless of efficiency or practicality.

It takes some serious, conscious, effort to try something new for most. If there’s an unknown on the other side of trying that new thing it becomes even more difficult to sell.

To get abstract for a bit, we also see this throughout history. What’s the percentage of the population that was able to change the way we live for the better? What’s the percentage of the population that brought us the various inventions many of us rely upon on a daily basis? If you don’t already know, it’s vanishingly small.

Now, I’ll recognize that invention also necessitates intelligence to the right tail of the distribution – but that’s not sufficient. Personality factors need to be at play to prevent social pressure from killing anything new, as most wish to preserve the status quo.

The same pressures at play in one’s own head regarding their approach are extrapolated upon others with social pressures.

If you consistently try new things, it will make some people mad. They’re invested in the way they’ve done something.

Just think about it for a minute, were the whalers happy when Standard Oil et al came in with a cheaper product? No, probably not. Regardless, the world is better off, a healthier place, and less whales are dead for it, despite their disapproval.

Far more people possess the pre-requisite intelligence for truly great things than are able to apply it to that effect.

Now, don’t be your own enemy. Invest in your future, to hell with the social disapproval and delusions about saving time, you have your future to take care of.