Structure & Interpretation

Who I am “professionally”, or an awfully abstract yet necessarily personal intro

This post is a part of a series which aims to help me understand who I am “professionally”

Hello everyone!

My name is , a beautiful name, it's from a song. I'm a software developer, or, put in a less corporate manner, a person who writes code (for computers to run). This is already somewhat problematic as "writing" is the very thing I want to challenge with what follows in the series. Let's say, I'm a person who creates programs (for computers to run). What's lacking here is emotion. I'm a person who likes to create programs (for computers to run). Computer programs. Enjoy is more emphatic. I'm a person who enjoys creating computer programs. Not perfect but let's go with that for now.

Not perfect but true. Even after twelve years of "professional experience" (the dull corporate language is pervasive in the tech world which I am a part of and whose problems I undoubtedly share), or simply working as a software developer (i.e. writing computer programs, the layers of obfuscation need to be peeled mercilessly), the process surprisingly remains enjoyable. I believe there's something immanent in this process to which something else, which is immanent in myself (and possibly in others), reacts in this way. Something inherently pleasurable in feeding the computer a set instructions and watching it execute them and observing the result of the execution. Now that’s a crude description of what is actually going on there but from an outside perspective it’s more or less true.

The pleasure is decoupled from the purpose of the program/system/product I'm creating, from the money/praise/recognition I receive for that work, from even the moral/ethical facet of what the program is supposed to bring into this world. The pleasure is on a lower, more basic, primal, somatic level. The practice activates something in my brain which reacts to — to what exactly? An intention, an idea expressed clearly and then embodied in a program. Control, predictability, validation. Compositional beauty discovered even in the simplest of programs. A meaning expressed, solidified, preserved, and thus uncovered. Maybe through the creative act we become privy to some hidden, foundational process underlying everything. Maybe that's too grandiose. Maybe I just like to see the machine react to my input, give me feedback or, how they say, “go brrr”. Maybe I'm just a sucker for instant gratification.

You can look at it from a million different angles but the truth, the undeniable experience of pleasure provoked in me and millions of other people, stays. Simply can't be ignored. The fact that this activity is sometimes financially profitable because IT products are currently in high demand is secondary to the original bright joy I feel when running a correct program. I've recently read someone share their memory of how excited they were when they’d figured out how to draw a square in Logo. I was moved by it because I remember having the exact same experience when I was a kid in middle school writing repeat 4 [fd 200 rt 90] and running it and seeing the turtle draw a perfect square. Something clicked. Like that famous perfect click of Lego bricks — another thing I have sweet memories of. I believe the experience universal. A study where they attach electrodes to your head, make you program, and track which parts of your brain activate would probably disappoint me. Let the experience stay the way it was for me back then when I was drawing squares — spiritual, mysterious, intimate. And, somewhat contrary to that, let the experience be shared with others.

A panegyric to my “professional achievements” (as the one which can be found on my “professional” personal website) written in the soulless corporate lingo would simply be inappropriate, and vulgar, to describe my relationship with computer programming.

See ya!

If you want to be notified every time I publish a new post you can subscribe via email or RSS feed.