A note on boredom, anonymity, and declinism

It’s interesting to see how the amount of ennui in our society increases simultaneously as technology advances. We are doing something wrong. Technology and its rapid advancement can be not only distracting but dangerous. 

Is this contributing to the declinism of our society? I think it is, and my only advice is to be more empathetic and caring of others around you. 

The abundance of digital content, the accessibility of technology, the algorithms strictly designed to keep you connected and in rage, and the facility to consume more goods from our homes, digital and non-digital, it’s all part of it. 

We are becoming isolated creatures who are often policing others to see how they are behaving and ready to complain publicly if other people disagree with us.

Attacking and criticizing others is easier than ever; digital anonymity is at the root cause of this. Interestingly, those who identify themselves and dare to share their opinions publicly suffer from attacks of people who dislike what they say, destroying any opportunity of dialog and intelligent conversation.

It is boredom, online anonymity, misinformation, and many other things contributing to a civic and ethical decline. 

I’ve found myself lured into digital anger holes just by doom-scrolling on Twitter and other platforms. Even when I think I’m self-aware, it’s hard to push back and ignore the ignorant and the misinformation of pointless negativity, some of which comes from people who are just virtue signaling.

Slowing down is the best thing we can do, in my opinion. Before you reply to a critic, before responding to someone’s comment, take a minute and figure out if responding or commenting to something undeniably negative or ignorant is necessary. I think it is not.

Fighting misinformation, cynicism, and hate speech are necessary, but we can’t do it with more misinformation and cynicism of our own. We often fall under tribalism behavior, and it requires a large amount of patience and self-awareness to combat that. 

We don’t need to stop innovating to advance our technologies. However, we need to be wise and empathetic to those who are negatively affected by it. Hence, we should be aware of what’s happening and be willing to make changes, even when not in our favor, to ensure the technology and progress that comes with it benefit everyone equally.

At a personal level, I find it beneficial to be more present and empathetic to those around us, our family, our friends, the cashier at the store, the homeless around the corner, the people with who we disagree, etc. 

Just follow the Golden Rule:

One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self

Mahābhārata 13.114.8

How to explain technical information to someone with no technical knowledge

Last week as I was asked to describe what a JavaScript callback is to someone without any technical background. I thought about it for a few seconds and couldn’t think of a non-technical way to explain that a callback is a function that gets executed after another function has finished its execution, so then I was asked to explain a 500 error instead.

Explaining what a 500 status code is to someone with zero technical knowledge sounded more interesting and fun to me so this is what I remember saying…

A 500 status code is what you’ll get when a something has gone wrong on the web application’s server but the server doesn’t have any specific details.

Imagine a home with many doors, in this example, each door is a “web application” and the home is the “web server”, the place where all these doors are.

Now imagine that you open a door, and while the door does exist, there is nothing behind it, at this point the home will tell you that nothing specific exists behind the door so in web server language, that would be similar to a 404 status code which means “Not Found”.

What about the 500 status code? Well, if you attempt to open any other door and nothing works inside of it, the home will tell you that there’s something wrong with it, but not sure what it is. For example, there might be no lights or no water, but the home won’t tell you that, it just tells you that there’s something wrong and in web server language that’s usually what a 500 error means. Something is wrong with the web server or the app but it doesn’t know what it is.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
~ Albert Einstein.

By now you’ll probably already pulling your hair, and I understand, this is painful. My explanation or attempt to explain this to someone with zero technical knowledge wasn’t good enough, at least not in my opinion. But that isn’t the point of this, the point that I am trying to make is that it is very hard to explain something technical that is well understood by us and people that we work with, but not by anyone that isn’t technical and has zero knowledge about programming or web servers in the above example.

In my experience, having the ability to translate a technical problem or solution to a non-technical audience is key, it is something that you as a software engineer, for example, will need to do many times when communicating with business partners, customers, or anyone that isn’t a software engineer or has any technical knowledge.

How do we get better at this? Well, this is something that the more you do, the easier it gets, but it never stops being difficult. You might memorize a couple of examples where you can explain a couple of things, but with technology changing so rapidly it will be hard to have a template or an example of how to translate something technical onto something that anyone can understand.

The ability to tell a story is key to accomplish this, and without at least trying to get good at storytelling, your chances of confusing people and not being able to communicate something technical clearly are very low.

Also, be empathetic and patient. If you are trying to explain a technical concept be aware of who your audience is and tune your technical speak to their level. There might be times where you’ll replace the technical talk with something that your audience will understand, remember that your ultimate goal is to communicate and to do it clearly.

In conclusion, I learned something about myself and this blog post is the first step to improve it, I don’t think too much about how to improve my communication skills when trying to explain a technical concept, idea, or problem, to someone who doesn’t have the technical knowledge or experience with technical terms.

Here are some resources that I am using to help me with this subject:

Innovation

Innovation is an overused word and very often, not recognized for what it is or what it means but instead, for what each one of us wants to believe it means.

Innovation is not something you teach or buy; innovation is not something a consultant will find for you or much less help you create it. You cannot capture it. You cannot force it.

Innovation is a way of life for some people; it is the way some people see the world and the way they think and do things, from picking up groceries to creating a company.

When real innovation shows, most of us don’t even know it, it just happens. Focused on your craft and improving what you do, and innovation will show up.

Innovation is often dismissed by some of us because we often reject change or things that are different. When we don’t understand something, we commonly describe it as a bad idea or even as something foolish.

Innovation is all around us and if you are lucky enough to notice it, do not turn your back to it, be curious, have an open mind, and embrace it.

Cheers!

Ricardo.