possible Stop falling in love with technology. I’ve seen tech-savvy, successful software engineers ditch their laptops and become farmers, therapists, or real estate agents. They may use spreadsheets and software to manage their crops, but code is no longer their main focus; they worry more about the goat’s character.
The basic ethos of tech is that once you’re in, you’re in for life – after you launch your first app, you never want to do anything but make more apps, or be in someone else’s Manage them while making apps. Just wanting a paycheck is dubious; passion is required. That’s why whenever I lose interest in technology — which has probably happened to me five times — I shut up. I’m a professional software enthusiast and co-founder of a software startup. I browse GitHub for fun and read random code. So I can’t, and I can’t tell people, I was drinking coffee one day before a meeting last month and I looked up from Slack and thought, “Man, coffee is hot and liquid and people drink it. temperature stuff.”
I should further admit: started drifting a few months ago. I no longer parse Wikidata or explore the obscure corners of PostgreSQL or hack climate datasets the way I used to. I especially don’t want to know about any AI products they announced this Wednesday. My excitement is inversely proportional to the excitement of the industry.
So I started teaching myself to play the piano to pass the time. (OK, a synthetic piano.) I found a bunch of old exercise books on Archive.org and loaded them into an e-reader. I play chords and scales over and over again. one of the books, Peters eclectic piano school expands, showing an appropriately 19th-century lady on the cover. Her hair was tied back and she was wearing a fancy dress. The picture is goofy in typical Victorian fashion, but I kept thinking about this woman as I practiced. She and her piano represented the only way her family could listen to music on a regular basis. She was the Sonos of her time. If you know any audiophile, you know how exhausting they can be when it comes to choosing equipment. But back then, a man married his stereo. The stakes are high.
The piano itself, or rather its keyboard, pissed me off so much. Who designed this stupidity? Seven white keys, five black keys, all arranged around a scale that forces you to twist your fingers to play anything else. This is a traditional interface, musical Unix. Of course, as I learned more, I began to understand why things were the way they were.
Medieval keyboard development teams had to figure out how to organize the infinite frequencies into convenient groupings. You see, they are managing scope. They decided that 12 notes per octave worked best, especially when the notes were tuned at a ratio of the twelfth root of two (for obvious reasons). They found an interface for these 12 notes so that the user can easily control the frequency, regardless of their musical ability. Piano developers then added control not just of pitch, but of volume and duration—quiet little staccato notes and sustained loud chords, accessible to anyone with fingers. The whole idea of a piano is an absurd hack of physics, math, and engineering.
What did humans do with this machine? Are we using it for what it was designed to do, which is to play church-like songs primarily in C major? of course not. We completely ignore the designer’s intent. Beethoven, Liszt, weird jazz parts, John Cage adding stuff to strings, Elton John wearing sunglasses, engineers taking ancient interfaces and drying them out Scramble some oscillators and make synths. I fell in love with the piano not because I could play it – I couldn’t stand it – but because it represented hundreds of years of pure human depravity and disrespect for everything that came before.
Whenever our, my industry gets excited, it starts talking about how we’re going to replace stuff with machines. Cryptocurrencies are designed to replace banks. VR can still replace reality. AI should replace, you know, potentially everything and everyone. However, behind the marketing, you can always find the most banal concept of human nature. The industry desperately wants us to be rational, self-interested consumers with a purpose (a wise man), rather than what we really are – a bunch of annoying, semi-comatose super chimpanzees screaming (troublesome man). However, as annoying as we are, with a 12-note interface, no matter how difficult it is to learn, we can create music for centuries.