Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ineffectively Effective

Its a crazy notion to have after a decade's worth of usability experience. After I have graduated to using good technology in the form of my new mac, it suddenly dawned on me that whatever I know about computers & IT systems (those necessary and unnecessary details), I owe it to the pain and suffering of my Windows-PC days.

I think this human brain is not equipped to enjoy life's simplest pleasures but to constantly mull over details. But I like this idea. I don't know a lot, but I know more than average about computers than there is to know. Apart from my graduation in the field of IT, I wouldn't have had the claim to knowing anything I know about computers. But this education begun a lot earlier in my childhood.

There was a dutiful windows PC at my uncle's place, which me and my cousin used to tinker with. Then there came a PC at my home, which I used to tinker with. The tinkering was less due to curiosity and more due to some abnormal machine behavior. To come to terms with it now, it was more about curiosity than about abnormal machine behavior. I distinctly remember dis-assembling my computer for the first time, each part lying on the floor as a spare part in a broken machine. I also remember what happened after that, I forgot how it looked before and how to put it back together again (big oops there). Then came a horrible 5 hour zig-saw workout, trying to put humpty dumpty together again. I put it back together and there it was, working like a charm. After that I knew a lot more about the relationships of various parts in the computer than I knew before. No college degree in IT can teach you that so effectively. 

I had developed a new found respect for closed systems because of this experience. The kind of software environment that windows has, also makes it easier to get various software applications to use for any of your needs. This is thanks to a very strong developer community which fed the outsized market share of Windows. Understanding how the hardware works, understanding the software environment have surely helped me appreciate the system more when I started programming. I think I owe my "big picture" viewing skill to my early days of suffering with my PC. 

To make the picture even bigger, I think suffering and pain have a lot more to offer than pleasure and satisfaction. Suffering creates a desperate need to get out of that feeling, and it probably is the source of the urge to act, to move, to aspire and to achieve. Suffering is also an extremely good educator. It holds us up by our heel, upside down, shows us how bad it can get, effectively pointing us to hell. Then it drops us and hopes that we land on our feet. If we fail to land on our feet, we succumb to the suffering and if we do land on our feet, we learn about our ability to stand amidst any great fall.

My PC days were filled with remarkable ineffectiveness and lots of lost productivity. I almost always ran out of Memory (applications became more powerful than my ability to upgrade my computer's memory). I always had the processor 5 times less effective than the one needed to run what I wanted to run. I was always ran out of hard disk space (data grows on you, mysteriously, until there is no space left on the disk). So all these things, could have held me down and I would have constantly demanded a better computer, almost every 6 months, which I did. But my father knew something I didn't, perhaps. He never gave in. So now I had to be satisfied with what hardware I had. It taught me amazing lessons about living within my means. Even now, I tend not to exceed my means (in money, time, computer memory) even when I have enough of it. I use it conservatively remembering the times when all these things got used up a lot faster when I didn't keep a check. What a way to learn to be frugal, I think!

So I owe most of my simple ways of life, to my small tete-a-tete with technology (or the lack of it). I am sure living in a urban setting has the same effects on the human mind. There is usually no adversity of opportunity, which teaches us to take it for granted. But I appreciate the people who come from the country side or from under privileged part of the society, where the opportunities for growth (personal and social) are so scarce that they grasp to any opportunity, big or small, with the same fervor. 

I think there are more lessons in adversity worth learning than we normally want to get away from.

I think I am beginning to agree to what Marcel Proust said, "We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full".


Vivek said...

interesting to see Gail Wynand as one of the labels in this blog...

Raunak said...

Gail Wynand was a unique influence while I was growing up. When I read fountainhead for the first time in my teens, I always imagined what it would be like to grow up the way Wynand did or in the neighbourhood that he grew in.

Its difficult to imagine at first, but even the thought is repulsive. I think this one lesson from his life is very important, that from his suffering he could figure out where he didn't want to end up. Thats a very powerful thought considering everything around him was not worth inspiring.

Vivek said...

there's more to the consciousness of Gail Wynand ... its not that he eventually figured out where he din't want to end up (its true but secondary), he figured he was doing all that he should'nt .. what he thought he should have been, was un-achieviable to him, which he later realized to be false when he met and understood Roark. By seeing that which was impossible, manifested in the form of Roark and then realizing the end to his endeavors to be very unlike that he had expected... Broke him down ... its is repulsive to imagine Waynand's growing up time ... but i think its in the realm of the ordinary world, if you please, not to think about the difference with which Roark would have dealt with the same experiences that Wynand had while growing up...
In the light of the same thought, it is sometimes quite interesting also to think, what leads one to be what he is (personality wise)...
This is a matter of epistemological development which highlights the power of questioning the world around you and within, leaving one's beliefs open to questions, which is what Wynand misses on early in his life ad Roark probably already had answers to which he believed in till the end ...
With respect to your blog, this notion of epistemological development is of critcal importance, even though it is very fundamental and in such fine detail that we are not trained to think in those lines as we grow..

Raunak said...

I revisited your comment the other day and I wanted to think it through before I posted a reply.

I think it is indeed possible, it doesn't just happen in Ayn Rand novels. Although not entirely in such a vehement way as Roark's life.

After thinking about it seems that its laziness and fear combined. Fear of the uncertain. For both Roark & Wynand, the future was as uncertain as to any other person. There was no question about Roark's response to Wynand type situation (of course personality wise yes, but practically in my opinion each is shaped by his own experiences).

Possibly Wynand lacked the same zeal to find out what lied beyond the uncertain and was willing to sit still till he finally realized what was possible after meeting Roark.

I think you are right to believe that we are not trained to think on those terms when we grow. But every training that we do receive is also to forget the uncertainty and embrace certain outcomes (I mean linear outcomes). Non-linearity is often ignored by us. Which even Wynand possibly ignored despite living through it. (who would have thought that a street punk would be a billionaire media mogul!).

Roark's whole point was to dislocate the linear thinking about aesthetics, to think practically, which sometimes tended to be non-linear when judged from common prevalent perception.

Shrutika said...

interesting read.. I couldn't help smiling when you mentioned your experience with your PC. Had a similar one..except that I couldn't put the pieces back in the right slots of the motherboard. My neighbour came to my rescue. Have learnt to assemble my PC on my own after that. The satisfaction on fixing things on my own was something I couldn't express to my schoolmates then. Its fun tinkering with technology as long as you can fix them right.

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