Tom Larkworthy03/21/2022, 10:38 AM
David Brooks03/21/2022, 2:02 PM
Tom Larkworthy03/21/2022, 4:15 PM
David Brooks03/21/2022, 4:47 PM
Tom Larkworthy03/21/2022, 8:15 PM
Cole03/22/2022, 2:32 AM
David Brooks03/22/2022, 4:12 AM
Tom Larkworthy03/22/2022, 9:35 AM
Yousef El-Dardiry03/27/2022, 7:04 AM
Tom Larkworthy03/27/2022, 9:01 AM
Tom Larkworthy04/02/2022, 3:45 PM
After banging my head on a problem at work all day, the answer came to me in a flash of insight on the way home. I spent all day repeatedly running experiments on my program, inserting complex sequences of breakpoints, emitting large traces, gradually refining and automating a whole complex workflow so it could be more easily repeated after making changes to my program. I had more ideas for things to try later in the night, but the insight short-circuited them.
One voice in my head (the one often active when interacting in this forum) whispers that if only I had better tools the process could have been shortened.
Another voice in my head whispers that I'm stupid for taking so long to figure out something some putative body else would find obvious. ("If deleting no-op nodes in a dependency graph causes nodes to fire before they're ready, that means some edges are being spuriously cut.") Or maybe I'm rusty, because I don't work anymore with graphs 12 years after finishing grad school.
But the dominant voice in my head is just elation, the flush of insight, of having tamed a small portion of the wilderness around me and inside my own head. And it wouldn't have happened without struggling for a while with the wilderness, no matter what tools I had. A big portion of today was spent trying to visualize graphs and finding them too large for my tools to handle. So I had to resort to progressively more and more precise tools. Text-mode scalpels over graphical assistants. And that process of going beyond what my regular tools can handle is a key characteristic of going out into the wilderness. When tools fail, the only thing left is to try something, see what happens, and think. No improvement in tools can substitute for the experience of having gone beyond your tools, over and over again.
There's a famous saying that insights come to the prepared mind. It's easy to read and watch Bret Victor and imagine that we are in the insight delivery business. But we're really in the mind preparing business.But this isn't quite right either, because we're really never without tools. What we have is levels on levels of tools that tend to accrete upwards, with tools at lower levels getting used less and less frequently until they're forgotten and lost. Periodically ripping out swathes of tools and trying to start afresh is a great thing to try. God knows I've done my share of that 🙂 Even though you can't ever really leave the midden, it's clarifying to take stock of your tools and identify dead weight. And if what seemed like dead weight turns out to have use, well that's good to know as well.  http://akkartik.name/post/deepness
Tom Larkworthy04/19/2022, 9:07 AM