The Amateur Mind and Absolute Truth
August 8, 2018
Author: Bianca Yang
Welcome to the August 8th, 2018 post. It’s time to educate yourself on vaguely interesting drivel I’ll scooped up from the bottom of the Internet.
The first thing I’d like you do is to try to draw a bike from memory. When you’re done, scan it and send out two copies: one to me, one to the guy who runs this website.
The best thing Gianluca says is: “There is an incredible diversity of new typologies emerging from these crowd-sourced and technically error-driven drawings. A single designer could not invent so many new bike designs in 100 lifetimes.” The reason a designer could not come up with this many designs is because the designer has models of “correct” bikes in his head. The designer has been trained to know what drawings are structurally correct, what structures give certain ride feelings, what designs are in vogue, and overall, how a bike should be.
Call these mental models limiting, but you have to acknowledge that these models achieve what they were designed to achieve: enable to designer to efficiently design legitimate designs. A creative still has the burden of creation upon him, so it is useful to learn and develop models that facilitate creation. That’s why the amateur can sometimes shine in exploring the unknown. The amateur’s mind is unburdened by any standards around bike design. They simply are given the bare scaffolding of “bike” to realize their thoughts around.
The Amateur Mind, for all the “freedom” I’ve conflated with it, is really not that useful, though. The constraints a designer has and the efficiency tricks he has picked up over years of practicing his craft are what makes him useful. Through repeated practice, you start to see patterns in the way things are done and can really understand how to break those patterns to create new modalities. That is a set of knowledge an amateur doesn’t have. The amateur is crippled because he doesn’t know how to sift through the information. He treats all data points as equivalently important. But they’re not, and the designer knows that. Searching through an amateur’s mind is like searching through the junkyard. The likelihood of finding something good is low. Even when you do find something good, refurbishing costs may make the trip less worth it than starting from scratch.
The second thing I’d like you to do is to answer the following question for yourself: Does Absolute Truth exist?
Once you’ve answered that for yourself, take some time to read this blog post.
This is one of my favorite blog posts. I think back on it frequently, especially because I’m trying to resolve what are superficially conflicting philosophies about work.
The startup view on work is to move fast, breed the oxymoronic controlled chaos, and break things. The War of Art and Derek Sivers method is to focus and be slow, methodical about everything you do. Sit down, work in long blocks without distractions, turn off your phone, turn off the internet, and crank out your work. Only through repeated refining against the grindstone can you achieve your best.
The startup view on work is to have open offices and encourage constant stream of consciousness communication. Like the internet, the communication pipes are clogged with memes and other trash, but enough gold gets through that quality work gets done. The other view is to have closed offices and give people space for private, carefully brewed thinking. I certainly have a preference for peace and quiet and the closed office, but I know there’s no absolute truth to this debate. Microsoft and Facebook and Google and Apple all have their successes, with the office style being merely an extension of culture that led to success.
I now think the debate among offices is being treated somewhat like early debates about privacy on Google and Facebook. For the majority of people, it was a non-issue. But the minority who truly cared didn’t stop pestering others about it and now the issue has gotten some more momentum behind it. I am happy to superficially agree with people who are fighting for offices and quiet, distraction-free, strong separation of professional and personal life workplaces, but I don’t think these issues are really that important. My goal in life is to get ahead, financially, professionally, and personally. If the best way I can see to do that now involves suffering in an open office format and having to work weekends and late nights, so be it. If I am later convinced to follow a path full of meditation and closed office and strict 8 - 5 workdays, so be it. It is better to work at your craft and bemoan the pains of work than to bemoan the pains of a work you’re not doing.
But don’t take my word as truth. There is no absolute truth, as samzdat has so wonderfully convinced me. The most important metric is how many problems a strategy or conceptual map can solve. Of course, as in software development, the introduction of a new feature inevitably introduces a whole flurry of bugs as cheerful companions. The financial system introduced a formalized system for pursuing and managing greed, so we ended up with the massive problem of how to grow more, faster, better. Industrialization brought with it massive population growth and environmental consequences. It’s a beautiful world we’re in. We’ve managed to make it more beautiful and more ugly over the years, and we’re going to have to pay for our debts, eventually. But for now, let’s try to manage the chaos and delay our eventual demise by contuining to work hard and achieve higher planes of thinking and doing.
As usual, you can contact me by email. It’s at the top of the post.